At Modus Cooperandi, helping teams and organizations get control of their work takes up most our time because the problems of personal work management and team coordination are at the forefront of people’s minds. More importantly, they think they are fixable.

Strangely, meetings are seen as universally bad. As if getting together with others is the lowest one can go. It’s like we are taking the Sartre quote, “”L’enfer, c’est les autres” (“Hell is other people) at face value. We’ve given up on collaboration, it seems.

But at every single engagement, every conference, every Kaizen Camp, we run countless Lean Coffees – and people universally love them. Every company we leave continues Lean Coffee even if they slack off on their use of kanban.

What is Lean Coffee?

Lean Coffee is a structured yet open meeting format that draws on the expertise and needs of those present to have the most relevant and practical meeting possible. It works like this:

    1. Participants gather for no topic (open conversation) or with a topic (say, “Annual Reviews”)
    2. The group builds a Personal Kanban board on the table with the columns:
      • Ready
      • Doing
      • Done
      • Epiphanies
      • To-Dos
    3. Ideation: Participants all take Post-It notes and write down anything they want to talk about for this topic. They place these tickets in Ready.
    4. Establish Group Needs: The group votes, each person gets two votes which they can put on any ticket or tickets. Drawing a simple dot on the Post-It is a vote
    5. Discuss in Order: The group then discusses tickets in order of voting, moving tickets into Doing when they are active and Done when they are discussed
    6. Recording Results in Real Time: There are two main outcomes for meetings. Epiphanies and To-Dos. Participants record any learning that comes out of the meeting and places those Post-Its in Epiphanies. (A meeting with no Epiphanies is likely a waste of time, so it pays to actually think about populating this column.)  To-Dos are simply any post-meeting actions that members will take. Those are written on Post-Its that participants can take with them and put on their own Personal Kanban … so they will actually get done.

That’s it. People gather, come up with things to talk about, vote, and talk while recording results.

Jim BensonHow To Lean Coffee