Lean Coffee

Lean Coffee Template

Run structured but agenda-less meetings with confidence. The Lean Coffee Template combines an easy-to-learn structure with a participant-controlled agenda to host satisfying meetings.

About the Lean Coffee Template

Lean Coffee is an innovative format that allows participants to run meetings without a facilitator or an agenda. The structure evolves naturally from the needs of the people present, leading to a rewarding meeting where everyone gets a say. Keep reading to find out more about the Lean Coffee Template.

What is Lean Coffee?

The Lean Coffee approach is a new way to structure meetings. The focus is on making the best use of everyone’s time and on using a mutually agreed-on agenda to ensure everyone is fully invested.

And you don’t even need coffee! (Though that can help).

While it may seem impossible to have a meeting without a leader and prior planning, the Lean Coffee format makes it simple. Everyone can suggest as many topics as they can think of, then participants vote for the topics they want to discuss.

Each topic gets a five-minute timebox to start. At the end of five minutes, a majority vote determines whether to keep talking or move on to the next topic.

Because everyone votes on the topics, no one person or voice is in danger of dominating, encouraging participants to share their different perspectives. 

When to use Lean Coffee

Lean Coffee, at its heart, is just a set of rules that mimics and gamifies the natural ebb and flow of conversation. As such, it can be used in virtually any formal social group. It also works in any setting, from corporate meeting rooms to coffee shops and bars. It’s even possible to hold them virtually by inviting everyone to a Miro board with the Lean Coffee Template. A Lean Coffee meeting can also have any subject, but it’s especially useful for team brainstorms or retrospectives. In a Lean Coffee brainstorm, every topic suggested should be an idea that relates to the general theme. In a retrospective, each topic is a lesson the participant believes the team should carry forward. These sessions work best in small groups (ideally 10 people or less), either as a one-off experiment or on a regular cadence (such as twice-weekly). 

You can also use Lean Coffee as an educational tool. If, for example, your teammates are new to a methodology such as Agile or Scrum, you can hold a Lean Coffee as a sort of ‘lightning round' to get everyone up to speed with essential concepts.

How to host a Lean Coffee

Making your own Lean Coffee meeting is easy. Miro’s whiteboard tool is the perfect canvas to create and share them. Get started by selecting the Lean Coffee Template, then take the following steps.

Decide on a theme. This is an optional step but can help if participants have trouble coming up with topics. If you’re holding a brainstorming or retrospective Lean Coffee, the theme is already there when you start.

Collect your discussion topics in the first column. Ask everyone to add sticky notes with their preferred topics. Keep the topics brief and on-point for readability. Some participants may only have broad “themes”, whereas other participants may have specific ideas they want to unpack. Both are welcome. 

Prioritize topics by voting. Use emojis to “dot vote” (two to three votes per person) for your favorite topics to discuss. People can either spread their votes across topics or use all their votes on one topic. Use Miro’s Countdown Timer to keep voting to under three minutes. When you’ve built your agenda, move the first topic into the next column.

Start your timer and begin the discussion. The group can start discussing topics in order of popularity. The person who suggested the topic has an opportunity to discuss it in-depth. 

Use majority voting to continue, stop, or indicate mixed feelings about the topic discussion. After 5 minutes, the group can vote on whether to continue talking or move on to the next topic. Repeat as needed to expand the discussion or keep moving. It’s important to keep timeboxing discussions so that everyone can contribute and participate. 

As you move from topic to topic, update the columns accordingly. To help everyone keep track of the different topics, move the sticky note topics to “Being Discussed” or “Discussed.” 

Wrap up the meeting and get everyone to contribute an insight. Save the last five minutes of the Lean Coffee to ask each person to share their learning or a key takeaway. If the majority of the group expresses that they’d like a hold a Lean Coffee meeting again, reschedule it for a date in the near future.

Lean Coffee Template FAQs

Why is it called Lean Coffee?

The term “Lean Coffee” creates the impression of efficiency in a relaxed atmosphere. “Lean” means the meeting won’t waste anyone’s time, and “Coffee” suggests it will be laid-back and enjoyable. Of course, it’s up to the participants to ensure the name is accurate!

What is the purpose of a Lean Coffee?

A Lean Coffee creates a space for structured discussion without boxing participants into an agenda devised by someone else. No matter what the topic, a Lean Coffee is designed to ensure everyone gets to discuss their concerns and interests.

How do you do a virtual Lean Coffee session?

Use Miro's collaborative workspace to let every attendee see the same whiteboard. Before the meeting, make sure everyone knows how to create sticky notes and vote using emojis. This will save time during the Lean Coffee itself.

How do you run a retrospective Lean Coffee?

A retrospective Lean Coffee is exactly the same as any other, except that the overall topic is a project or other effort that just ended. Topics should relate to some lesson carried forward from the completed effort.

Lean Coffee Template

Get started with this template right now.

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