Lean Coffee

I read about the concept of Lean Coffee in Making Work Visible, one of the books I set as a goal to read this year. The idea is to have an agenda less meeting, but nevertheless get some things done.

It sounds crazy, though the format makes some sense. The group takes a minute or two to write down some ideas on paper. Each person then gets two votes to place against the topics. The top rated items get discussed first for a period of time and at the end of that time, everyone votes on continuing discussion or moving on. This can repeat every few minutes.

I got the chance to experience this at the recent DevOps Enterprise Summit conference, where there were Lean Coffee breaks every day, with each having a topic that people wanted to discuss. One I participated in was fairly rigid, with the facilitator keeping to time, gently encouraging discussion, and rigorously calling for votes.

While I enjoyed that, a second one didn’t use timers consistently or votes, and the meeting ended up being a rather free form discussion, which was OK, but it meandered and wandered without guidance in a way was somewhat annoying. It was a surprising experience for me, as I typically like free form discussions.

I don’t know that I’d recommend Lean Coffee for all meetings, but I do like the format, and I think this can be a good way to focus on a few areas a team finds important, especially when there isn’t a clear set of priorities.

I would encourage you to give it a try, especially if you get into a meeting without a clear agenda. Maybe it’s something I’ll try as a way to discuss and debate some topics at some event.

Steve Jones

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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