What is Lean Coffee?
Lean Coffee is a wonderful format for people to quickly organize a conversation on topics that are most relevant for who shows up.
If you have never attended a lean coffee, I suggest you first view Jim Benson’s 3 minute video (Jim co-created this meeting format).
For facilitation details, you could read any of the following
- Vic Bonnacci’s description with some handy tips
- Phillip Rogers Lean Coffee Facilitator’s Guide
- my facilitation tips at the end of this template in Google Docs
- or see Gerry Kirk‘s handy visual cheat sheet below.
Why use Lean Coffee?
I’ve used lean coffee to reboot Agile Orlando, to run multiple team retrospectives, for meet-and-greets for potential new collaborators, and to crowd-source ideas for future talks.
However, one of my favorite ways to use lean coffee is to connect people across an organization or community who would not normally bump into each other. Jason Little does a great job of explaining how this can be used for organization change in his book, Lean Change Management.
Virtual Lean Coffee? Can this work online?
Absolutely! I started to run virtual lean coffee discussions online in 2013 when I wanted to connect with other agile coaches and discuss topics of interest to us. I developed and evolved a virtual lean coffee template for using Google Docs.
If you are looking to run your own virtual lean coffee, consider that your tools should support:
- creating cards
- add and edit text on cards
- group cards together (to make it easier to find similar topics)
- vote on cards
- sort cards by vote (auto-prioritize)
- move cards between columns (when the group is ready to start or end discussion.
- To have an adjustable timer that anyone (or just the facilitator) can control – you may choose a shorter timebox if you are continuing a conversation on topic once or twice
- To record epiphanies or decisions
- To record actions from any of the cards
There are a few online tools that now provide this functionality.
- Retrium – supports 1-9 above – PAID
- Lean Coffee Table – appears to support 1,2,4-9* – PAID
- Instant Agenda – appears to support 1,2,4-9* – PAID
- funretrospective.com – supports 1,2,4,5 – FREE version
(*) – indicates I have not used this tool … yet
Most sticky-note apps can support 1-3 and some will support 4. However, these new set of tools may be worth looking at because the other features (5-9) can be big time savers if you are running multiple virtual lean coffees per month for multiple groups.
If you try any of these out or find other tools, please let me know.