Lean Coffee

Democratically generated agendas for more valuable conversations
Contributed by

Prakriti Koller

Published June 29, 2019

What Is Lean Coffee?

  • Lean Coffee started in Seattle in 2009 by Jim Benson and Jeremy Lightsmith
  • A structured, but agenda-less meeting. Participants gather, build an agenda, and begin talking.
  • Intentionally minimalist - to be the least structure necessary for a coherent and productive meeting

Why Do Lean Coffee?

  • Surfaces topics that the participants want to discuss
  • Helps create more value out the of conversation since it's participant-run
  • For meetings with a specific focus, add scope to the discussion topics

How to do Lean Coffee?

Materials Needed

  • Writing utensils for all participants (markers are easier to read from a distance)
  • Sticky notes (any medium size: 3x3, 4x6, etc)
  • Time keeping device
  • Wall surface or table

How to use it

  • Set up a Personal Kanban with three columns:

    • To Discuss
    • Discussing
    • Discussed
  • What to discuss

    • Ask each person to write down topics they would like to talk about on separate sticky notes. Time-box to a few minutes, ideally 3-5.
    • Lay out the topics and group duplicates or similar discussion points
  • Vote & talk

    • Use Dot Voting to prioritize the topics
    • Start the timer and move the highest priority topic to the "Discussing" column. Have a volunteer start the conversation.
    • At the end of a set time-box, ask the group if they want to keep talking about that topic or move on to the next by asking for a visual indicator, where:
      • Thumbs up = "keep talking about this topic"
      • Thumbs sideways = "no strong opinion either way"
      • Thumbs down = "end discussion and switch to next topic"
    • Keep updating the Kanban board. Continue this until you are out of time or out of topics.

Look at Lean Coffee

Links we love

Check out these great links which can help you dive a little deeper into running the Lean Coffee practice with your team, customers or stakeholders.

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