Lean Coffee

Democratically generated agendas for more valuable conversations

foundation-culture-and-collaboration loop position

What is it?

  • 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 use it?

  • 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

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

  1. Set up a Personal Kanban with three columns: To Discuss, Discussing, Discussed
  2. 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
  3. 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.

Further Information

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