WHAT IS LEAN COFFEE(tm)?
Lean Coffee is a structured, but agenda-less meeting. Participants gather, build an agenda, and begin talking. Conversations are directed and productive because the agenda for the meeting was democratically generated. There are currently dozens of Lean Coffees happening world-wide, including Seattle, San Francisco, Stockholm, Toronto, Boulder, New York City, and more.
WHERE DID LEAN COFFEE START?
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.
Now, Seattle Lean Coffee happens every week, is very popular, and requires only that someone who has been there before shows up – and even then it’s just so they know where we stash the post-it notes.
HOW DOES LEAN COFFEE WORK?
The format for a Lean Coffee is very simple. This is intentional. It is meant to be the least structure necessary for a coherent and productive meeting. No more, no less.
1. Set up a Personal Kanban
In this Personal Kanban we have the items to discuss, what we are currently discussing, and the discussed columns.
This provides a structure for the conversation. Next we populate it
2. What to Discuss
People all get pads of post-it notes and a pen. They then start to add their topics for conversation into the “to discuss” column. These can be literally whatever people want to discuss or follow a theme. Right now, we want to encourage as many unique ideas as we can.
When the ideas start reach a certain point (an you’ll be the best judge of when that is), each topic gets a 1 to 2 sentence introduction. This way people know what to vote for.
3. Vote and Talk
Each participant gets two votes. You can vote twice for the same thing or for two different topics. Simple put a dot on the sticky you are interested in. Tally the dots. Then you are ready to have a conversation.
The power here is that you now have a list of topics everyone at the table is interested in and is motivated to discuss for real.
WHAT IF I WANT TO START A LEAN COFFEE?
Do it! It really is this simple.
WHAT IF I HAVE ALREADY STARTED ONE?
If you have started a Lean Coffee and would like, we would be happy to set you up with a subdomain on leancoffee.org like this -> seattle.leancoffee.org. We will be working in the future to come up with an interactive map that will show all the Lean Coffees on earth and let you either find one near you, or find one where you are traveling. We just need to know where you are.
HOW DO I RUN LEAN COFFEE WITH A DISTRIBUTED TEAM?
Well, you’ll almost certainly need a tool. You can use an online whiteboard, but you’ll find it easier to use a tool built specifically for Lean Coffee. Here are a few that we know of:
Retrium – This is a set of facilitation techniques designed for agile retrospectives. One of the templates they have is Lean Coffee, and it is incredibly easy to use. Can be used for more than just retrospectives. Best for companies/enterprises. Free to try, then requires a paid subscription. www.retrium.com
Lean Coffee Table – This is a simple website built just for distributed Lean Coffee. Free to use. Best for meetups/casual use. www.leancoffeetable.com
Full disclosure: we have no financial relationship with any of the tools listed above. However, we do know the folks at Retrium and have given them feedback on their Lean Coffee implementation.
Lean Coffee(tm) is a trademark of Modus Cooperandi. We wanted to protect the name, so other's didn't mess with it.