How to do team meeting in an agile way – Explaining Lean Coffee ™

If you have been implementing Agile in your organisation, you must have been involved in one (or many) of the following meetings:

  • Sprint Planning Meeting
  • Daily Scrum Meeting
  • Sprint Retrospection Meeting
  • Random meetings.
  • Technical Meetings and so on…

Majority of times I feel that meetings have one (or more) following flaws:

  • Missing Direction,
  • There is no outcome,
  • Unexpected Discussion,
  • Meetings are over-timed,
  • All (important) points are not discussed.

Meetings like, Sprint Retrospection, has been time boxed. However, it has never been concised.

Lately, I went to one of Scrummasters discussion forum at CBA (CommonWealth Bank of Australia). There, the lean coffee ™ meeting was introduced.

I found very fascinated with this concept. I discussed the same with my Manager and then to my entire team. I am glad to tell you that all of my colleague got very excited with this concept. I thank them to accept my suggestion and here are some outlines that I would like to share with all of you.

What is Lean Coffee ™?

Lean Coffee ™ is a structured, but agenda-less meeting. Participants gather, build an agenda, and begin talking. Conversations are directed and productive because the agenda for the meeting was democratically generated. Jim Benson and Jeremy Lightsmith founded the Lean Coffee ™ movement in Seattle in 2009.

The Lean Coffee ™format is essentially an approach to facilitate learning and collaboration through group discussions. The ‘Lean’ part of the name has its roots in Lean Thinking and the ‘Coffee’ part of the name obviously comes from thenice drink that we drink to live.

How it works

The protocol, borrowed and modified from the Sydney Lean Coffee group and Limited WIP Society, is as follows:

  1. Create a small Kanban board with four columns – To Discuss | Discussing | Discussed | Outcome.
  2. Brainstorm topics that everyone would like to discuss and note down each topic on Index card (or sticky note). Everyone presents his or her topic in a couple of sentences.
  3. Use dot voting (or initials) to vote on each of the topics.  Each person gets two-three votes. You can vote ones or more than ones per topic.
  4. Add all topics to the “To Discuss” columns on a Kanban wall, with those that received the highest votes at the top.
  5. Do a quick calculation on the  time in hand divided by how many topics you would like to cover. Decide the length of conversation per topic.
  6. Discuss each topic in turn. Move the index card for the topic into the “Discussing” column. Initially, ask the proposer to explain the topic, then go round the table to give an opportunity for everyone to provide an initial comment followed by open discussion.6.1 When the topic is done, move on to the next one.  The topic proposer decides when the topic is done, and moves the index card to the “Discussed” column.

    If someone disagrees, then a quick vote can justify to discuss it further Otherwise, if the majority disagree to discuss any further then mark the topic as “Discussed” on board. The outcome can be noted down on the wall for further actions.

  7. At the end of the overall Lean Coffee ™ session, run a quick retrospective.  What did you like? What  you did n’t like? What are ideas for improvement?



I am delighted to tell you that it has been a major success after implementing this process. Here is a small snippet of our meeting.

  • Because every step is time-boxed. There are very limited possibilities for time wastage,
  • Every topic was appreciated and important points were discussed first.
  • The attendees collectively  ensured that the session was a safe space where opinions were respected. There were no stupid questions and nobody lambasted anybody for what they had to say.
  • There were disagreements but those were discussed in a grown-up manner rather than becoming heated arguments.
  • There was no moderator to make this happen. The attendees moderated themselves.

So if you were waiting for the perfect time to seize the opportunity of building an effective meeting session, the time is now.

Get lean coffee process works for you.



Some sites for Lean Coffee ™ Meetups around the world:

Seattle Lean Coffee ™.

Lean Coffee(tm) San Francisco.

Lean Coffee(tm) Sydney.

Lean Coffee(tm)Toronto.