Lean Coffee

Lean Coffee is an activity that provides a structure for discussion of multiple topics. Participants build an agenda of items to discuss, vote on the agenda and then work through each topic one by one.

Best For

Informal, open discussion

When to Use

In place of any other retro!

Lean Coffee is a meeting without a pre-set agenda, horror! Well, that's only partly true. The first agenda item is to create the agenda, then follow a system of group prioritizing what to talk about by voting on the agenda items. The top voted item goes first!
This is a great format for group meetings, and gets everyone more involved in the topics involved than a traditional style of meeting, where one person typically sets the agenda before the meeting.

How to run a Lean Coffee session?

  1. Select a theme for the meeting and write it at the top of the board - this is optional.
  2. Have everyone add sticky notes with ideas to the topics section. There is no limit on the number of sticky notes each. (10 minutes)
  3. Have participants introduce each sticky note, a sentence or two about each (10-15 minutes).
  4. Hold a voting round with three votes per person – you decide (5 minutes).
  5. Rank the more popular topics higher in the “To Discuss” column. This is your meeting agenda.
  6. Move the top item into the middle "Discussing" column and set the timer for five minutes — or whatever length the group determines is reasonable. This is the initial timebox for discussion.
  7. When the time limit is reached, ask participants if there’s interest in continuing the discussion. If so, set the timer for a shorter duration and continue discussing. You can repeat this step if the group want to keep discussing.
  8. When the discussion is finished, move its card to the right “Discussed” column. Bring the next highest card over from “To Discuss” into “Discussing” and repeat the process.
  9. When all topics are discussed or you are running out of time, elicit action items from the group to wrap up the session.

Tips on running Lean Coffee

  • We've found that this format does benefit from having a trained facilitator for the first session, but after that most teams can run it by themselves.
  • Make sure you are strict with the timer!

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