Lean Coffee is a gathering of a small number of people who want to discuss lean in an informal setting. The first Lean Coffee was in Seattle in 2009 (organised by Jim Benson and Jeremy Lightsmith), but the idea has spread around the world.
The format is similar to an un-conference, as the participants decide the agenda.
The format of a Lean Coffee is as follows:
- A facilitator is nominated
- Three column headers are placed in the middle of the table: ‘To discuss’, ‘Discussing’, ‘Discussed’
- Everyone writes down topics they would like to discuss (usually one topic per sticky note) before placing them in the middle of the table or on a nearby wall. This should take only a few minutes.
- Once the group and/or facilitator thinks there are enough topics on the table, each idea will have a one or two sentence introduction. The aim is to clarify the topic to the other people; not to discuss them at this stage.
- Everyone votes on the topic(s) they would like to discuss by dot voting: each person gets two votes to choose which topic(s) they would like to discuss. You can put both dots on the same topic, or on different ones (Adam Yuret argues against 3 or more dots).
- The dots on each topic are counted, and the topics are sorted into popularity order in the ‘To discuss’ column.
- The most popular topic is then discussed for 8 minutes. As a discussion starts, the sticky note for that topic is moved into the ‘Discussing’ column.
- At the end of 8 minutes, the group votes whether to continue with the same topic or move onto the next. Voting is usually conducted through a thumbs up versus thumbs down approach (the majority decision being taken). If the topic continues, you continue for another 4 minutes, then re-vote.
- When the topic is finished, the sticky note for that topic is moved into the ‘Discussed’ column and you move onto the next most popular topic.
- Discuss for 8 minutes. Vote whether to continue … repeat above steps.
Sessions usually last around one hour, but there is no set time.
Lean Coffee around the world
- Seattle Lean Coffee
- Lean Coffee San Francisco
- Lean Coffee San Mateo
- Lean Coffee New York
- DC Lean Coffee (Washington)
Setting up your own Lean Coffee
There is no licensing agreement to set up a new Lean Coffee. Many of the existing groups have been set up using online meeting platforms (such as meetup.com) but any platform can be used.
New groups can ask leancoffee.org for a listing.
Note: This is based on an entry I wrote for Wikipedia as I noticed there was nothing written about Lean Coffee. However, despite referencing leancoffee.org and Limited WIP Society, the reviewers rejected the piece due to “No claims of notability that meet requirements … No independent, third-party references to confirm or establish it.” My intention was to add information to an encyclopedia for the benefit of others, but I felt that I was being asked to jump through hoops to do so. Trust me, Wikipedia, Lean Coffee IS happening – not that your readers will know.