Lean Coffee started in Seattle in 2009. Jim Benson and Jeremy Lightsmith wanted to start a group that would discuss Lean techniques in knowledge work – but didn’t want to start a whole new cumbersome organization with steering committees, speakers, and such. They wanted a group that did not rely on anything other than people showing up and wanting to learn or create.
I got in touch with Lean Coffee in Stockholm 2016, a group of people had a meet up every Wednesday morning at a caffe close to Central Station.
I thought it was south a good meeting so I introduced it at work, and now we are having Lean Coffee meetings twice a week.
Lean coffee is an agenda less meeting form, participants provide topics that are shortly presented and when all topics has been lined up, the group is voting on them.
The topic that has most votes are the one we start with.
During discussion we start with 6 minutes discussion, when time is up we vote, if majority is for continuing discussion we set the timer on 3 minutes
When the 3 minutes is up we vote again, if more time is requested we put the timer on 3 minute again until we are finished with the topic.
The positive thing about this is that it is the participants that are driving the meeting and it is the topics that are most important or interested that are discussed first.
In our meeting we wrap up and sum up the key takeaways from the discussion, it might be action points that shall be driven by someone.
When we start a new meeting we do not bring anything from last meeting with us, if you had a topic that was not discussed and you still want it to be discussed you bring it up again.
Some topics never get discussed and if you have a topic like that, you have to setup a specific meeting to discuss your topic.
We do not only discuss, we are educating, sharing knowledge, solving problems.
We as a meeting team decides what is important now and are handling it in a prioritized order.
Here is a small intro movie I created a while back, the quality is not the best.
And here is a the slides fromt the presentation with some guiding words for each step.
For a Lean Coffee you need a few things;
-A group of people
-Somewhere to hang around, like a table
-Post- it notes
-Pens or markers that makes your text easy to read for everyone
We also have two roles;
-Moderator, that helps the team focus on the topic that shall be discussed
-Time keeper, keeping track of the time, we get back on the time perspective later
We also have two rules;
-All topics are good, and encourage everyone to have an open mind
-Each meeting is a fresh start, no notes from previous meeting are brought along
You are not limited to one topic per person as the title indicates, but 1 topic per person is a good start.
It is not mandatory that everyone has a topic ether
The essential is that all in the team have put the topics that are important for them on the table
When all topics are on the table the author of each of them makes a very very short description of the intent of the topic just to clarify it
In my sessions we use 3-5 votes depending on number of topics
Sometimes a topic do not get any votes at all
And other times two or more topics get the same number of votes
– Use the dice to separate them into a order
Move the first topic into Discussing
Put the timer on 7 minutes, later on you can adjust that to what normally works best in a team, in my team 10 minutes workes best
When time is up you need to vote
You have 3 signals that you do with your hand;
-Thumb up == you like to continue discussing
-Thumb down == you are finished with the topic and want to end it
-Closed hand == you do not have any opinion
You count the number of thumbs up and down
-If More thumbs up than thumbs down you continue the discuss
-Put the timer on 3 minutes or half the original time, and continue the discussion
When time is up, it is time to vote again, if more thumbs up than down you put the timer on 3 minutes or half the time of previous time depending on what works best in your team
You continue, with this procedure until you have more thumb down than tumb ups
Its time for retrospective.
We call it Key takeaways
Each person puts a one liner on a post it note that contains the key takeaway
It can be an action that has to be done, like bring this up with the manager
It can be knowledge that has been identified and is important to document as a one liner
Or anything else that you feel was important as a key takeaway from the discussion
You move next topic into discussion column
Put the timer on 7 minutes and start the discussion
And when time is up you vote if you want to continue discussing or not
And you do this until you are out of topic or out of time
My own experience is that we always run out of time
Every meeting starts with a blank paper
The people in the meeting put the topics they feel is important NOW AT THIS MOMENT
If a topic from previous meeting was not discussed you can put it up again IF YOU FEEL IT IS IMPORTANT NOW