Wave 2

"Lean Coffee Is Some Powerful @#$%" (-Anonymous CTO)

Session Leader Name: Adam Yuret

Duration: 90 minutes (or until it's supposed to end, whichever comes first)

Audience Level: Any

Session Style: Lean Coffee

Description of Session:

in 2009 Jeremy Lightsmith and Jim Benson founded Seattle Lean Coffee. Every wednesday morning at 8:30 interested parties show up at a coffee shop in Seattle to discuss how they do their work, how it pertains to their personal lives, challenges they've encountered and how they faceded them. Some participants face tough challenges and come looking to the Lean Coffee community for ideas.

The mechanism for lean coffee is a deceptively simple Kanban (i.e. "ready","doing", and "done") using sticky notes on the table of the coffee shop. There are writing utensils and sticky notes for all the attendees to use with which to add topics for discussion. After a short description of the topics in the backlog a vote is held using dots or hash marks on the stickies. Once the backlog is democratically prioritized a time-boxed discussion of the most popular topic begins.

This seemingly simple mechanism has produced some of the most amazing, passionate, and educational discussions in which I've ever participated. One of the most amazing aspects of this phenomenon is that Jim and Jeremy are frequently absent from Lean Coffee due to their busy travel schedules, but Lean Coffee is a living community of practice that is not dependent on a founder or leader. Regardless of who shows up the process always happens and generates value for the participants.

This simple, portable and powerful approach can be used to improve internal meetings such as retrospectives and planning meetings. I've had the privilege of running Lean Coffee with a very high-functioning lean startup and seen first hand the unexpected powerful results.

Anybody can have lean coffee any time anywhere, your local coffee shop, a meeting room or any collaborative workspace, all you need is a surface, stickies, pens and passion. Let's have one at SF Agile! We can discuss whatever the groups chooses, or even be meta and talk about Lean Coffee. Whatever the group decides to discuss, I guarantee they'll come away with an amazing new approach with which to facilitate learning and collaboration.

Session History: I've attended, and often facilitated, Seattle Lean Coffee every wednesday morning at 415 Westlake ave for about a year. An always changing group of professionals from disparate industries (e.g. software, health care, government, and manufacturing) meets to enjoy a self-organized discussion that usually centers around topics such as: lean, agile, scrum, kanban, kaizen, happiness, management, and personal growth.

Here's a link to a blog post I wrote about it: http://contextdrivenagility.com/2011/08/04/seattle-lean-coffee-could-be-anywhere/

Questions Answered By This Session: Learn how to use a powerful mechanism to get maximum value out of meetings.


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Session Leader Name(s): Adam Yuret

Stage: Accepted

Feedback Score

12 votes

Idea Details

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Similar Ideas [ 3 ]


  1. Status Changed from Active to Accepted
  2. The idea was posted


  1. Comment
    Jabe Bloom

    Adam is an excellent Lean Coffee facilitator, people interested in learning how to run Lean Coffee in their own groups and organizations would definitely benefit from learning from his experience.

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment
      Jabe Bloom

      Adam is the regular facilitator of the Lean Coffee at the home of Lean Coffee, Seattle. I regularly attend via Google Hangouts. The number of people varies... note: I am saying that I have attended Lean Coffee as an ACTIVITY not as a presentation.

  2. Comment
    ( Moderator )

    It sounds a bit like what SLC Agile does. I'd love to learn how to do it.

  3. Comment

    Maybe you could also call this "I want to set up a Lean Coffee meetup in my city" - kind of like that "I want to run an Agile Project" video on youtube!

    I definitely would attend this (if I come) and I am loving it. Coffee is a great way to socialise - and it means you also get to network and help and learn with each other. I think I went to something like this at Agile 2012 where we tried to do it in a large room, without coffee, so maybe this time we could have coffee?

  4. Comment
    Jim Benson

    We at Modus use lean coffee to run more effective planning, retrospective and other team meetings as well. While "Lean Coffee" started as a social event, it has turned into a very powerful collaborative framework that allows true self organization.

    Having said that @Stephen, we've run lean coffees at dozens of conferences to great effect. I think it would be great if Adam could actually run lean coffees at the start of each day at SF Agile - that would get the concept across and allow people to actively participate.

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment
      adam.yuret ( Idea Submitter )

      I'd be thrilled to host a Lean Coffee every morning before the conference. It can be hard to schedule especially on the first day as early mornings are usually something that requires extra motivation for people. I was thinking if there were many people at the talk I would host a round with 12 people and then have folks break off into their own groups. If we have a lean coffee in the morning on day 1 and people show up it could serve to pepper the audience with folks familiar with the format who could just jump right into hosting multiple simultaneous lean coffees. If we do that I would still want to have a discussion/presentation at the start (end?) to discuss ways this format has been used for meetings and root cause analysis types of things.

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