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Can Lean Coffee Replace Management Meetings?

Em Campbell-Pretty
May 20, 2013

An unexpected takeaway from Scrum Australia was Lean Coffee.

I had the good fortune to travel to Scrum Australia with three of my team members. On day two we decided that a hot breakfast was in order, so we met up at what had become "our place", Strawberry X Cafe. Over breakfast, we got talking about our new ideas from the Scrum Australia sessions we had attended, as well as general improvements we would like to make to our ways of working, peppered with random conversations about things to do and see in Sydney!

Three hours later, we were all talked out and one of the guys turned to me and said with a big grin "We just had an impromptu lean coffee!". Having never taken the time to join a lean coffee meetup, I was a bit baffled and asked for an explanation.

Fast forward a month and I am chatting to another member of my team about the best way to table topics for discussion with the leadership team and it occurs to me our team meetings have gotten into a bit of a rut. There is a lot of "cascading" of information, but nowhere near enough meaningful debate about the system of work. And then it came to me - replace the traditional team meeting with Lean Coffee!  With my self proclaimed brilliant idea in hand, I sought feedback from my team and 10 days later we had our first Leadership Lean Coffee.

In what I believe is a fairly standard approach to lean coffee, we settled ourselves down with coffee, index cards and sharpies and spent five minutes brainstorming the topics we wanted to discuss. Followed by 5 minutes of each team member providing a short explanation of their cards and dot voting to prioritise our backlog. 10 cards were tabled, 7 received votes and 4 got discussed in the course of the hour we had set aside.

The discussion was great. Open, robust debate ensued.  Actions were taken and decisions were made. Not bad for our first attempt! Having completed the experiment, there was consensus all around that the time was well spent and we would move forward with Leadership Lean Coffee instead of our standard weekly team meeting.

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