Run user groups or meetings more efficiently…

Have you ever facilitated a meeting where you felt like half of the people in the room wanted to get out? You might have felt that your colleagues were wishing they were somewhere else instead or questioning themselves what they were doing there in the first place. Maybe you’ve experienced this feeling in one of the meetings you recently attended.

People sometimes have this aversion to meetings as they feel that most discussions are solely for the interest of the facilitator or the “loudest speaker”. There are even instances where a supposedly 1-hour meeting ends up going overtime just because one person tended to drag on one topic.

With these in mind, meetings can be seen as a time-waster.

The reason why people disengage in meetings is that they don’t see the benefit of the meeting for them. This is primarily because a preset agenda, of which they may not have an idea or interest on, is laid out at the onset of the meeting. They all just have to go with it.

What if you can conduct meetings where your attendees are engaged, you meet your and your attendees’ needs, and you get to cover what you need to discuss within schedule?

Lean Coffee helps make your meetings more productive where attendees are engaged, plus you get the most important topics covered within your set schedule.

Based on the definition available at leancoffee.org, a 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.

Lean Coffee Format

Running a meeting Lean Coffee style is easy.

If your team members are co-located, you can use physical tools like a whiteboard, some pens, and sticky notes. If your team members are remote or if you prefer the ease of using an online board tool like Kanban Zone, all you need is to gather your attendees in a room and you’re all set.

Create your Kanban Board with three columns – To Discuss, Discussing, Discussed – and then have your attendees write their suggested topics in a sticky note or a Kanban card if you’re using an online tool.

Once you have all topic suggestions collected, have all attendees vote on what topics get to be discussed. The topic with the most number of votes gets to be discussed first, followed by the next one and so on.

Discuss one topic at a time and make sure to time-box your discussion. When the time is up, the team can vote to move to the next topic or continue with the current one.

Don’t worry if you don’t get to discuss all topics. Since the topics have been prioritized according to the number of votes, you are sure that the most important ones are on top and get to be tackled first. And if you’re using an online tool, you can save your topics for your next lean coffee session easily. If not, just make sure you don’t lose those sticky notes for your next meeting!

Co-located or Virtual

We love using the Lean Coffee format to reward the people who actually show up to an event by creating the agenda that meets their exact needs. So we built a Kanban board template to use for both a co-located or virtual session. We also set a WIP limit of 1 on the “Discussing” column to reinforce that only 1 topic should be discussed at a time.

Lean Coffee Meeting Template at Kanban Zone

A good thing with using an online Kanban board tool for Lean Coffee is you get to preserve or keep a record of the topics you’ve discussed and even easily take note of important items for each topic within the card. This makes it easier to go back to your notes after the meeting should you need to check on your action items. Also, if you don’t cover all topics just open your online board the next time you have a Lean Coffee session and your cards are still there. This Kanban Zone board template will help you achieve just that.

Try Lean Coffee for your next meeting and see how efficient and productive your meetings can be.

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