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: A revolutionary meeting format

Lean Coffee is a freeform meeting without any agenda! Well, that's only partly true. Lean Coffee is a collaborative meeting that usually starts with participants suggesting topics that they would like to discuss. These topics can be anything related to the team's work, including current projects, upcoming tasks, or general work-related issues. Each participant then has the opportunity to briefly pitch their topic and explain why they think it is important.

After all the topics have been suggested, the group votes on which topics to discuss. Participants are given a set amount of time to discuss each topic, typically around five minutes. The facilitator of the meeting uses a timer to ensure that each topic is discussed for the allotted time.

During the discussion, participants are encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas about the topic. The conversation is generally free-flowing and can cover a wide range of related topics. Participants are also free to ask questions and clarify any points that are unclear.

At the end of the allotted time, the facilitator asks if the group would like to continue the discussion or move on to the next topic. If the group decides to continue the discussion, they can either extend the time for the current topic or move it to the next round of voting.

The meeting ends when all the topics have been discussed or when the allotted time for the meeting has expired. Participants are encouraged to take notes during the meeting and share any action items or next steps that were discussed. The notes can then be used to guide future discussions or to follow up on any action items that were identified.

How to run a Lean Coffee session in Metro Retro

  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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