Lean Coffee makes meetings focused, enjoyable, even exciting.

It does this by intentionally breaking every rule for having a good meeting:

  • No “strong” meeting agendas,
  • no rules of conduct,
  • no forcing people to behave,
  • no strict timelines.

If you look at any book on meetings, you will find the authors saying, “you must have a strong agenda and the meeting must be no-nonsense and …” Well no wonder people think meetings suck, with that type of dictatorial setting anything would.

Lean Coffee takes the control of the meeting from the meeting owner and distributes it around the room. From the human body to the Internet, we see that distributed systems are more resilient, more creative, and more active than centralized systems. Centralized systems create reliance on one central resource, which creates a single-point-of-failure.

Everyone in an agenda-driven meeting wants to force their own agenda. Everyone becomes a bad actor – because the system encourages them to.

Lean Coffee seeks to diffuse that system with some simple wisdom.

You likely pay the people in the meeting with you a lot of money. Why not get the most value from them?  Why not let them tell you what’s important, what needs to be discussed.

Six Gifts of Lean Coffee

Timeliness: By waiting until the meeting time to create the agenda, we are ensuring that the most important things right now are brought up.

Emergent: The most important topics voted for are often not the ones anyone expected. In the course of offering ideas, new topics emerge which are immediately recognized as the most important.

Collaborative: The group sees what is possible, discusses, and votes together. They see what was selected and why. This gives everyone an understanding of the importance of the topics at hand. They are less likely to interrupt or talk about unvoted topics. This means bad actors in the meeting are much less likely.

Results: Participants watch Epiphanies and To-Dos as they are being created. They know what they are and why they are there. They see learning and action in physical form. This increases retention of learning and the likelihood of follow-on action.

Participation: Because everyone is involved in the creation of the agenda, everyone feels like it is “their meeting”. This means they are more likely to participate, to challenge authority, and speak honestly.

Value: The voting of topics creates a shared value. That value is then remembered and reinforces future action.

Jim BensonThe Six Gifts of Lean Coffee