Enjoy a Lean Coffee

What is Lean Coffee? Here’s a hint: it started in Seattle–no, it’s not a new product from Starbucks, although those who participate drink plenty of lattes. According to Ken Power, a fellow at the Lean Systems Society, Lean Coffee is a trending social networking method that helps entrepreneurs, investors, and developers share ideas and forge productive relationships.

The Coffee Concept

As Power explains, this type of collaboration is a revision of the old “agenda-driven gathering”. Those who like and are familiar with Open Space will recognize the appeal: 

The Lean Coffee format is essentially an approach to facilitating learning and collaboration through group discussions. The ‘Lean’ part of the name has its roots in Lean Thinking, and related areas of Lean Production, Lean Software, Lean Startup, etc. The ‘Coffee’ part of the name obviously comes from that nice drink that some of us are partial to. Meet-ups typically take place in the morning, at a local coffee house, at the same time and place each week.

Coffee Protocols

Casual as it may seem, this ad hoc approach to networking is not without some basic guidelines. Power provides an 8 point list of Lean Coffee protocol that helps lend structure to any Lean Coffee event. Among these protocols, participants must offer topics by submitting them on index cards or sticky notes. There are elevator pitches about the topics. Dots on the cards represent a person’s vote for a certain topic, and so on.

Enjoy a Cup of Agile at Work

Power suggests moving the Lean Coffee concept to the workplace as a way to bring together uncommunicative teams or departments around topics relevant to the company’s improvement. With coffee in hand, surrounded by affable peers in a semi-informal setting, it might appear strange that this activity is all really part the philosophy surrounding Agile development–all the better with a little cream and sugar. Don’t forget the sticky notes!

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