Lean Coffee – is it for you?

January 22 2021

Lean Coffee – is it for you?

Are you tired of long meetings about everything and nothing? In your dreams the next brainstorm lasts no longer than one hour? You like meeting with your team – even online, but you feel that pointless chats are a waste of time? Try the Lean Coffee method.

Did you know that…

According to information on the official website: “Lean Coffee is a structured, but agenda-less meeting. Participants gather, build an agenda, and begin talking. Conversations are directed and productive because the agenda for the meeting was democratically generated.”

It all started in Seattle in 2009, when Jim Benson and Jeremy Lightsmith wanted to start a meeting to discuss Lean techniques without establishing separate groups or new hierarchies. They wanted to give each participant an opportunity to share their opinion, expand their horizons or enter a discussion. This is how the Lean method intertwined with the idea of a coffee meeting. The result were short but effective meetings.

Power coffee

The Lean Coffee method is very often used during brainstorming, integration, onboarding or team internal meetings. The greatest effectiveness is reached within a limited number of participants (up to 10). As a result, the meetings do not extend in time and each participant has an opportunity to talk.

How to prepare yourself?

Regardless of whether you work at the office or remotely, you will need:

– a pen,

– paper sheets,

– a timer.

Before the meeting prepare a three-column table: to discuss, discussing, discussed. You can use a board or do it virtually using e.g. Google Docs or other available tool.

How to conduct a Lean Coffee?

– Currently, the majority of employees work remotely, but that is not a problem. Online Coffee Table meetings can be conducted using, among others, Mural, Miro, Easy Retro, or Lean Coffee Table. Voting on the topics can be performed on an online board available for all participants, and the so-called Roman voting is simply sending emojis in Zoom, Teams or Google Meet chats – says Marta Kamińska z Solutions.Rent.  

See also: Mental training. Six reliable methods

Divide the Lean Coffee meeting into three stages:

Selection of topics

Participants have five minutes to propose discussion topics. If you are at the office, they can use color notes, if you are meeting online – do it virtually through a chat. Remember, there are no wrong ideas here.

Enter all proposals into “to discuss” column of the table. Ask each participant to shortly describe the idea. If any subjects overlap, treat them as one.


Each participant has three votes to prioritize the topics. They may vote on one, two or three topics. Those topics which receive the most votes will be discussed as the first. Topics which gained no votes will not be discussed during the meeting.

The discussion should last five minutes. Next, count the votes and arrange the topics according to their priority.


Enter the first topic from the “to discuss” column into the “discussing” column. Set the timer for five minutes and ask those interested in the topic to share their thoughts. One minute before the time lapses inform the participants that the panel is ending.

If the discussion is still on, you may do the so-called “Roman voting”. At your sign each of the participants should show whether they whish to continue the topic or move to the next one. How to do it? It is enough to give your thumb:

-thumb up – I want to continue,

-thumb down – I do not want to continue,

-thumb sideways – I abstain.

If the majority want to continue the discussion, set the timer for another five minutes and let other persons talk. If the team whishes to start another topic, move on and enter the currently discussed issue to the “discussed” column. Remember that not all topics need to be covered at one meeting. Time is the priority.

Read also: Business meetings – the importance of savoir-vivre

Ten minutes before the end of the meeting, present a short summary. Mention decisions made or conclusions drawn.

Why is it worth doing?

Thanks to Lean Coffee, you will limit long discussions that no one needs. You deal only with the topics that the group is interested in. This helps to increase participants’ involvement. This creates an atmosphere of concentration during the meeting and you are able to discuss a number of topic during a limited time. The discussion itself is open to ideas and learning, as well as listening-oriented. The exchange of experiences, knowledge and diverse approaches makes it even more valuable. The formula is easy to introduce. You can organize the meeting anytime, even without much experience.

Looking for a place to work with Lean Coffee? Click here and check out the Solutions.Rent’s offices.  

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