Lean Coffee

I’ve just got back from the PowerShell and DevOps Global Summit in Bellevue, WA where I had the great pleasure of attending tons of excellent sessions on a bunch of PowerShell and DevOps topics. The main tracks were all recorded (hopefully uploaded soon, will update with link) but the side sessions were not.

I didn’t attend many of the side sessions, but one that I did was Glenn Sarti, who is a dev at Puppet. His session was on Lean Coffee, which I think is my new favorite format for informal meetings.

Lean Coffee is held and characterized as follows:

  • There is a timer, a person who is in charge of keeping things moving and enforcing the timing rules that follow.
  • Start by spending 5 minutes to gather topics. This is anything that people want to talk about. Nothing is off limits.
  • Everyone voted on which they want to talk about first. Everyone has two votes which can be cast for whichever topics the voter wants to do first.
  • The timer tallies the votes and the group starts talking about whichever item was highest votes.
  • Every two minutes timer interrupts the discussion and polls for if you want to keep talking about the current topic or not. This is just a quick thumbs up or down. Everyone votes.
  • If the majority votes to continue on the current topic, the timer is reset for another two minutes, after which the timer will take another continue/move on poll.
  • If enough people vote to move on to the next topic, the timer picks the next highest votes. The goal is to get through all of the topics.

You can modify the number of votes and timing as it makes sense for you, but this is what we went with. In this format, it’s easy to prevent two people from de-railing the conversation or monopolizing it since the topic is reviewed every two minutes.

This format sounds like it might be a bit high maintenance or disjointed with constant timer interruptions but when we practiced it in Glenn’s session, I found it efficient, and clear. I’ll definitely be trying it out at work.

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