Lean Coffee @ The Summit!

Jim Benson & Josh Howell

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. There are currently dozens of Lean Coffees happening world-wide, including Seattle, San Francisco, Stockholm, Toronto, Boulder, New York City, and more.

WHERE DID LEAN COFFEE START?

Lean Coffee started in Seattle in 2009. Jim Benson and Jeremy Lightsmith wanted to start a group that would discuss Lean techniques in knowledge work – but didn’t want to start a whole new cumbersome organization with steering committees, speakers, and such. They wanted a group that did not rely on anything other than people showing up and wanting to learn or create.

Now, Seattle Lean Coffee happens every week, is very popular, and requires only that someone who has been there before shows up – and even then it’s just so they know where we stash the post-it notes.

HOW DOES LEAN COFFEE WORK?

The format for a Lean Coffee is very simple. This is intentional. It is meant to be the least structure necessary for a coherent and productive meeting. No more, no less.

1. Set up a Personal Kanban

 

Simple Personal Kanban for Lean CoffeeIn this Personal Kanban we have the items to discuss, what we are currently discussing, and the discussed columns.

This provides a structure for the conversation. Next we populate it.

2. What to Discuss

A Populated Backlog for the Personal KanbanPeople all get pads of post-it notes and a pen. They then start to add their topics for conversation into the “to discuss” column. These can be literally whatever people want to discuss or follow a theme. Right now, we want to encourage as many unique ideas as we can.

When the ideas start reach a certain point (an you’ll be the best judge of when that is), each topic gets a 1 to 2 sentence introduction. This way people know what to vote for.

3. Vote and Talk

Each participant gets two votes. You can vote twice for the same thing or for two different topics. Simple put a dot on the sticky you are interested in. Tally the dots. Then you are ready to have a conversation.

The power here is that you now have a list of topics everyone at the table is interested in and is motivated to discuss for real.

About the Facilitators


Jim Benson
is a pioneer in applying Lean and Kanban to knowledge work, Jim is the creator of Personal Kanban and co-author of Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life, winner of the Shingo Research and Publication Award. His other books include Why Plans Fail, Why Limit WIP, and Beyond Agile. He is the CEO of Modus Cooperandi, and co-founder of Modus Institute. For the past two decades Jim has worked at uncovering ways for individuals and groups to communicate, collaborate, and find clarity in unpredictable and amorphous environments.

Joshua Howell is senior coach, co-learning activities at the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI). Howell was an architect and implementer of a lean operating system for retail stores at Starbucks Coffee Company, where he also created a team of coaches to facilitate and sustain the lean transformation globally. Among its improvements, the system improved the quality of products and experiences, increased product availability, and reduced waste (eg. coffee waste). It was implemented in an innovative way, where managers had “problem solving experiences” to develop that critical capability.

As senior coach, Howell supports co-learning partnerships across a variety of sectors (retail, restaurants, manufacturing, and financial services), develops hands-on learning experiences, and conducts research into the implementation of lean business systems. Howell holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame.