What is Lean Coffee?
Lean Coffee provides a format for individuals to quickly self-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 with Jeremy Lightfoot).
For facilitation details, you could read any of the following
- My facilitation tips for Lean Coffee (virtual or in-person)
- or see one of the handy visual cheat sheets 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. I retired that format in 2017 as tools started to emerge to support lean coffees online.
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.
- agile.coffee – a free version of FunRetro for lean coffee – FREE
- Retrium – supports 1-9 above – PAID
- Lean Coffee Table – appears to support 1,2,4-9 – PAID
- funretrospective.com – supports 1-9 above – PAID
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.