Kaizen Camp: Seattle–What We Did at Camp

Kaizencamp2012Seattle01This year’s Seattle Kaizen Camp was awesome.

I loved the range and diversity of the attendees, with people from health care, education, government, software development, and a host of other occupations. We had attendees from college students to C-Level management. We were once again very close to gender parity. And we had people from across the US, as well as Europe and Asia.

All this to discuss our experiences with continuous improvement, Personal Kanban, and lean.

The weather co-operated, so most of our 75+ sessions were held outdoors in the beautiful Seattle summer. Just warm enough to be comfortable.

Kaizencamp2012Seattle02Sessions included:

  • Kanban at Home
  • Failing Well
  • Lean Contracts
  • The Cynefin Framework
  • Accelerating Innovation
  • Metaphors to Convince Others of Lean Principles
  • Resilience with Kanban
  • Extreme Self-Organization
  • Personal Kanban Experiences

and more .. about 70 more.

What was most important for Tonianne and me as organizers was the speed at which people created topics and the depth of conversations.

All the topics and conversations were conceived of, led, and participated in by the attendees themselves. There were no official speakers, no lengthy powerpoint presentations, no middle-of-the-day sugar crashes in dark rooms. Kaizen Camp: Seattle was people practicing Lean, Personal Kanban, and Continuous Improvement talking about what they did and how they did it.

We are looking forward to Seattle’s event next year, but in the interim we have several planning across the US.

Coming up later this year (announcements for each will be made soon):

  • Kaizen Camp: Boulder
  • Kaizen Camp: SoCal
  • Kaizen Camp: NYC

Please come to one near you!




Several of the Photos and notes have been posted here.

Lean Coffee–Value Through Flexibility and Democracy

In late 2012, Modus Press will be releasing a book on Lean Meetings.  At the core of this is a tool we use called Lean Coffee.

Where it came from

In 2009, Jeremy Lightsmith and I were sitting at a coffee shop wondering about how to start a new Lean-thinking community of practice in Seattle. This sounded like a great idea, but neither of us had enough time to devote to running yet another professional organization.

So I suggested that we make it self organizing. We find a place, a time, and an open-but directed, format.

Value Through Flexibility

Each Lean Coffee Meeting works like this:

  • Framework: Draw a Personal Kanban
  • Personal Agendas: Invite attendees to write their topics on sticky notes
  • Democratization: Giving them two votes each, ask attendees to vote on the topics on the table
  • Group Agenda: Prioritize the sticky notes
  • Discuss

There are three main things happening here:

  1. There is a tight enough framework for focus
  2. There is a loose enough framework for new ideas to appear, and
  3. The framework gives everyone ownership.

Why is this important?

In a Lean Coffee style meeting, no one “owns” the agenda – it is created on-the-fly. A meeting is called with a topic and maybe a few item to be discussed. This format allows the good brains you invited to your meeting (I hope you invited good people) to extend the agenda in useful ways. Since the group votes for items discussed, chances that people will drone or or otherwise hijack the meeting are much less.

Where We’ve Used ItLean Coffee with 80 Participants in Melbourne, Australia, at AMP

Since launching the Seattle Lean Coffee group in Seattle, we’ve brought Lean Coffee style meetings to organizations including, RW Baird, The Library Corporation, Comcast, Nordstrom, and The United Nations (in offices worldwide). In the corporate setting, we’ve found the lean coffee format to greatly lessen the amount of time wasted trying to “get on the same page,” and greatly increase the productivity and effectiveness of the gathered group.

What This Means

Getting On The Same Page – Most meetings waste a lot of time discussing background to issues that everyone already knows. The Lean Coffee format asks people to write what they wish to talk about on sticky notes and place them into a to-discuss area. When everyone sees the gathered topics, they get context of the topics individually and in relationship to other topics. Seeing this, attendees can quickly align around the topics, their meanings, and the goals of the meeting.

And if they can’t? Well, then we’ve just discovered something valuable to discuss.

Increased Productivity and Effectiveness – Meetings tend to waste a lot of time talking about talking. We will go over the agenda, we will discuss how the agenda isn’t perfect, we will rigidly stick to the agenda. People are frustrated with meetings not because they don’t want to work together, but because they view them as ineffective and, therefore, as interruptions in their day.  With a Lean Coffee, groups can create a relevant agenda designed to quickly achieve value.