Energizing Conversations using Lean Coffee Format

Photo by Cle0patra

Photo by Cle0patra

Recently some coworkers and I met for dinner and a discussion about agile metrics; it was a great evening, but not everyone who wanted to participate could make it that night.  One coworker who couldn't attend is hoping to schedule another dinner and discussion evening but didn't have a topic in mind, so I shared with him the lean coffee format.  I first learned about lean coffee at the Scrum Gathering Las Vegas, and it's a great way to have a group brainstorm and discuss many topics in a short period of time.  Here's how it works:

  • Give the group 5 minutes to brainstorm topics silently; topics should be written on index cards or sticky notes (one topic per card/sticky).
  • Display topics so everyone can see them and have each person who provided the topic gives a 30 second explanation of it.
  • Dot vote on the topics to determine priority.
  • Begin a time-boxed discussion of the topic with the highest votes. 
  • When the timebox has expired, take a silent roman vote to determine whether participants have derived sufficient value from the discussion or would like more time--thumb up means, “I’d like to continue this discussion,” thumb sideways means “meh,” and thumb down means, “I don’t have more to contribute.”
    • If the majority of participants vote thumbs up, continue the discussion on a reset timer (typically a shorter timebox than the original). 
    • When the majority of participants vote thumbs down (or thumbs sideways for ambivalent), close out the discussion and move to the next topic.

It's that simple.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.