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.

I got in touch with Lean Coffee in Stockholm 2016, a group of people had a meet up every Wednesday morning at a caffe close to Central Station.

I thought it was south a good meeting so I introduced it at work, and now we are having Lean Coffee meetings twice a week.


Lean coffee is an agenda less meeting form, participants provide topics that are shortly presented and when all topics has been lined up, the group is voting on them.

The topic that has most votes are the one we start with.

During discussion we start with 6 minutes discussion, when time is up we vote, if majority is for continuing discussion we set the timer on 3 minutes

When the 3 minutes is up we vote again, if more time is requested we put the timer on 3 minute again until we are finished with the topic.

The positive thing about this is that it is the participants that are driving the meeting and it is the topics that are most important or interested that are discussed first.

In our meeting we wrap up and sum up the key takeaways from the discussion, it might be action points that shall be driven by someone.

When we start a new meeting we do not bring anything from last meeting with us, if you had a topic that was not discussed and you still want it to be discussed you bring it up again.

Some topics never get discussed and if you have a topic like that, you have to setup a specific meeting to discuss your topic.


We do not only discuss, we are educating, sharing knowledge, solving problems.

We as a meeting team decides what is important now and are handling it in a prioritized order.

Here is a small intro movie I created a while back, the quality is not the best.

And here is a the slides fromt the presentation with some guiding words for each step.

For a Lean Coffee you need a few things;

-A group of people

-Somewhere to hang around, like a table

-Post- it notes

-Pens or markers that makes your text easy to read for everyone

-A Timer

-A Dice

We also have two roles;

-Moderator, that helps the team focus on the topic that shall be discussed

-Time keeper, keeping track of the time, we get back on the time perspective later

We also have two rules;

-All topics are good, and encourage everyone to have an open mind

-Each meeting is a fresh start, no notes from previous meeting are brought along

You are not limited to one topic per person as the title indicates, but 1 topic per person is a good start.

It is not mandatory that everyone has a topic ether

The essential is that all in the team have put the topics that are important for them on the table

When all topics are on the table the author of each of them makes a very very short description of the intent of the topic just to clarify it

In my sessions we use 3-5 votes depending on number of topics

Sometimes a topic do not get any votes at all

And other times two or more topics get the same number of votes

– Use the dice to separate them into a order

Move the first topic into Discussing

Put the timer on 7 minutes, later on you can adjust that to what normally works best in a team, in my team 10 minutes workes best

When time is up you need to vote

You have 3 signals that you do with your hand;

-Thumb up == you like to continue discussing

-Thumb down == you are finished with the topic and want to end it

-Closed hand == you do not have any opinion

You count the number of thumbs up and down

-If More thumbs up than thumbs down you continue the discuss

-Put the timer on 3 minutes or half the original time, and continue the discussion

When time is up, it is time to vote again, if more thumbs up than down you put the timer on 3 minutes or half the time of previous time depending on what works best in your team

You continue, with this procedure until you have more thumb down than tumb ups

Its time for retrospective.

We call it Key takeaways

Each person puts a one liner on a post it note that contains the key takeaway

It can be an action that has to be done, like bring this up with the manager

It can be knowledge that has been identified and is important to document as a one liner

Or anything else that you feel was important as a key takeaway from the discussion

You move next topic into discussion column

Put the timer on 7 minutes and start the discussion

And when time is up you vote if you want to continue discussing or not

And you do this until you are out of topic or out of time

My own experience is that we always run out of time

Also important;

Every meeting starts with a blank paper

The people in the meeting put the topics they feel is important NOW AT THIS MOMENT

If a topic from previous meeting was not discussed you can put it up again IF YOU FEEL IT IS IMPORTANT NOW

Good Luck



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