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Lean Coffee

Do you feel like your meetings are agonizingly long with no substantial progress? Do you wish your staff would just take genuine interest in the discussions to reach progressive solutions? Are you looking for easier, cost-effective ways to motivate your employees? If yes, then Lean Coffee is the way to go for you.

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What is Lean Coffee?

Having been started in Seattle in 2009, Lean Coffee is a new format of holding meetings. It is extremely easy to learn and to adopt. As with all other business operations, when the word “Lean” is associated with a function, it means minimizing waste. This waste can be of resources, of employees’ skills and even time. Lean Coffee is a meeting format that was developed to minimize the wastage of time during meetings and to use the available time in the most efficient manner.

The format gets its name from the concept of combining lean thinking with having a meeting in an informal place like a coffee shop. This is what encourages effective learning as the environment around the employees in the meeting is much more relaxed and familiar. Lean Coffee can be best described as an agenda-less meeting. When employees gather for the meeting, the agenda is decided democratically. This is what keeps the staff interested in the discussion because everybody talks about what they want to talk about. People gather, decide what they want to talk about and start talking. There is no room for any wastage of time which is what keeps the discussions extremely focused and thus productive.

Lean Coffee Format

How lean coffee works is fairly simple. All you need a supply of writing utensils for each person attending the meeting. This is to make sure that everybody has something to write on in case they want to take some notes. A good choice would be sharpies as the things written with sharpies are easy to read from afar.

Additionally, you will need notepads and/or sticky notes. These work better than notebooks or diaries because they are cheaper (saving on the financial resources) and they are much more conveniently usable against a wall or a noticeboard. This means that when there is an agenda that has been decided, one sticky note on the wall can get everybody in the meeting on board.

Along with the stationary, you will need a device to time your meeting. This could be a stopwatch or any smartphone. This is necessary in order to fulfil the purpose of a lean coffee and make sure the discussions start and end on time without any waste.

How to run a Lean Coffee meeting

Once you have the number of people that you require for a meeting in a room, along with all the material that you will need to carry out the session, it is now time to begin. What needs to be understood is that there are basically three different stages of conversation in a Lean Coffee; the things to discuss, the things that are being discussed and the things that have been discussed.

You start by writing down the three phrases on three individual note cards or sticky notes; “To Do”, “Doing” and “Done”, and displaying them on the table or wall in front of you for everyone to see. What this does is that it gives the attendees a starting point. The three column arrangement on a table with space between each is called the “Personal Kanban”.

You will now tell everyone to grab their own note cards and write down the things that they would like the group to discuss. Make sure that the time they are given to complete this exercise should be limited, not more than 5 minutes. Once everyone is done, you ask them to lay down their “To Do’s” under the respective category. Then proceed to voting.

Give every person three votes each and then prioritize each topic based on the number of votes it gets. Once the topics have been categorized according to the number of votes they’ve received, you move topic no.1 to the “Doing” column. The next thing you have to do as the leader of the meeting is assigning time to the discussion. Select a volunteer from the group to start the discussion and give them the selected window of time to express their views.

Once the time of that particular discussion expires, you can now let the group decide whether they want to keep discussing the same topic or want to move on to the next one. A thumbs up means a “I want to keep discussing this topic”, a sideways thumb means “I’m good with either” and a thumbs down means “I want to move onto the next topic”. Count the votes effectively and then do whatever is voted the most on.

Let it be known that you will stay on a particular topic for as long as the majority of the group wishes to. when you move onto a new topic, make sure to put that under “Doing” and the previous one under “Done”. Once all the topics have been discussed or the time of the meeting has expired, take some time to reflect back on what the meeting has achieved. Look over all the topics you have discussed with the group and evaluate whether everyone is satisfied with the proceedings of the meeting. Make sure everybody is aware of the plan of action that the company will be adopting based on these discussions and answer any questions they might have.

All in all, this is how a lean coffee retrospective works. It is one of the most effective ways of engaging your employees into discussions with the managerial staff. It helps in increasing their motivation levels and makes them feel like they are valued by the company. Having a loyal workforce is beneficial for any firm in the long run and hosting lean coffee meetings is something that contributes greatly to this cause.

Lean Coffee Template

You can create a Lean Coffee template right now. You will also be able to export it to JPEG, PDF and spreadsheet formats in the end of the exercise.

Create Lean Coffee Exercise