Changing the corporate culture in a company can be complex, expensive and it might require a lot of effort. But Lean approach teaches us that there are efficient and straightforward ways for changing and improving your everyday work life by hacking the routine – learn how to hack your meetings with Lean Coffee [Infographic]

“When we invite people to meetings, and we give them a strong agenda upfront, we are completely robbing ourselves of all of the wisdom the meeting attendees wold bring with them”.

Jim Benson

Lean Coffee is a structured, but agenda-less meeting, as defined by, where participants gather, build an agenda democratically, prioritize it and discuss it.  Yes, it’s that easy!

Lean Coffee was created in Seattle in 2009, by Jim Benson and Jeremy Lightsmith, consultants and agile trainers, who wanted to start a group that would discuss Lean techniques in knowledge work – but didn’t want to start a whole new organization committees, speakers, and usual structure. They wanted a group that did not rely on anything other than people showing up and wanting to learn or create. This is how Lean Coffee was born. Thanks to its simplicity and high productivity the format became very popular within Lean & Agile culture, but also within companies undergoing the transformation.

What do you need to organize Lean Coffee?

Here’s the simple “recipe“: curious people, willing to learn and create, one board, post its, and pencils, and you’re ready to go. To start, print out an invitation with basic data, “what, when & where” and put it in the busiest parts of your office, like water distributor or coffee machine.

How does Lean Coffee work?

The steps are quite simple: set up a Personal Kanban with three columns, the one with the items to discuss, the one currently discussing, and the discussed. This will be the structure for the conversation and its flow. After few minutes of silent brainstorming each participant writes their topics that are added to the first column. Then it’s pitching time: people present briefly their topics and the dot voting starts, usually 2 or 3 votes per person. The topics are arranged based on numbers of votes and the conversation can start. Time limit should be from 5 to 10 minutes each topic, and once it is reached, hold a thumbs up/down vote to see if there is a shared interest in continuing the conversation.

At the end of the session it is important to share the take-aways and actions of the group, and of course taking a photo of the board can be very useful.

You can find a step-by-step guide in our infographic below!

Lean Coffee benefits

The benefits of a Lean Coffee meetings are immediate: by eliminating pre-established agenda and single person domination, and by introducing a democratic choice of topics the encounter will be more enjoyable for the participants, and surely more effective. The discussions will flow naturally and the attention will be focus exclusively on things that matter. The highlights of a Lean Coffeee are the epiphanies, thought and ideas that changed they way we perceive the current situation, and every learning company should capture them.

The best conclusion can be borrowed from Jason Little, author of Lean Change Management, “Lean Coffee helps provoke open and honest dialogue which helps people attach meaning to the change.” (

Check out the pictures from the most recent Lean Coffee organized in our HQ.

Now that you have the recipe it’s time to make some delicious Lean Coffee!