Lean Coffee is a meeting format where you don’t finalize the agenda before the meeting starts.
It can take place in a café, but also in a meeting room, or almost anywhere.
The topic is often Lean, Kanban, agility in business and product development (like software development), but the format lends itself to other topics, too.
Examples of established groups meeting for lean coffee are Seattle Lean Coffee, Lean Coffee Oslo, and Lean Coffee Toronto.
These groups are people meeting on their own time to learn, but this format has big potential benefits in business context too.
Lean Coffee at a café
A few quotes from LWS on Lean Coffee:
Essentially, a Lean Coffee is a group of people working together to learn … in an informal setting. It’s like a mini-unconference where the participants decide on the schedule.
Step 1: Everybody writes down topics they’d like to discuss on stickies ….
Step 2: Each topic is briefly described …
Step 3: … votes …
Step 4: … stickies with the most votes at the top
Step 5: Each of these stickies are discussed
Step 6: If enough time … do another stickie
A few quotes from @ourfounder and @sprezzatura on why democratize meetings:
Agendas are so 20th Century.
When you set an agenda, you control the conversation. …. When you control the agenda, you control the lessons learned. Since we enter a meeting with only our assumptions to guide us, agendas follow our assumptions. Our assumptions are based on what we already know. But what about the things we don’t know? Quite often, it’s the conversations we don’t plan on that give us the most insight. Why not instead run our meetings to learn or to discover?
Conventional wisdom suggests that businesses hold far too many meetings attendees deem a waste of their time. …. To combat this, some call for meetings with rigid agendas.
the discussion of a stated topic is a conversation. In fact, the entire reason we are calling the meeting is to have a conversation.
If we want to learn from our meetings, we need to allow the conversation to be set by the very professionals we invited to the meeting in the first place. …. Allowing the group to have a say in setting the agenda gives them buy-in for the importance of the topics.
as the person who called the meeting, you can now direct the overall topic and even seed a few of the initial sticky notes. You can even set a few “must discuss” stickies at the top of the board and prioritize them the highest.
Update: after writing this, I saw that Ken Power also had written a nice piece on Lean Coffee.