Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lean Coffee.

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I first experienced Lean Coffee at Oredev 2011 in Malmo. I was introduced to Lean coffee by Jim Benson (Author of the famous book – Personal KANBAN). One morning we had Lean Coffee with some awesome bunch of people including Jim, Marcus Hammarberg and Joakim Sunden. My bad I forget many other names. ☺

Thinking back, I wonder what really motivated me to participate this lean coffee session at 7.30 in the morning? I had no obligation to do this.
I can think of 3 reasons;
1. I was curious about it and wanted to learn what lean coffee means.
2. No one pushed me to do so (therefore I couldn’t make the excuse “oh that’s way too early ☺” )
3. People around me inspired me; I knew I could have had a good discussion with some knowledgeable people I met there.

But I didn’t have an agenda sent to me. What are they going to do in this lean coffee meeting? The interesting thing is, because I didn’t have an agenda I couldn’t find the items which I think are boring to me, or I couldn’t find faults with the agenda. :). I couldn’t set my expectations out of this meeting in advance either.. Hmm… Interesting.. definitely I wanted to see what this was all about.

The Technique was very simple. We make a usual KABNAN chart and keep it on the coffee table. As usual this has 3 columns, Stack, WIP, Done. We had loads of sticky notes and coffee too. This was a very causal gathering and the whole set up made everyone feel free and comfortable.

Jim became the facilitator; he asked all of us to write something what we wanted to talk about in a sticky note. We all did so within 2-3 mins. Then we pasted our sticky notes to the stack column on the KANBAN sheet. ( Remember 1 note for 1 topic)

It was the time to vote. He asked each of us to vote 2 notes in the stack. (What we tried to achieve here is the democracy, we got to talk about whats useful to the majority not to a single person. At the same time, by considering the votes we could find the topics, which most the people can talk about freely. We voted for a particular topic because not only we can learn about them, but because we loved to talk about them too.)

Once voted, the facilitator moved the most voted 3 stickies to the WIP column (WIP is limited and the work flow is visible). It was time to start talking about them.

First note: The person who wrote the note described what he meant about it. Then someone else in the group started talking about that and added his idea to the topic, once he finished another person in the group added his 2 cents. Likewise we all talked about the topic we picked,. I saw lots of insights and great ideas adding to the discussion. We didn’t talk cos we had to defend our poker card or because it was mandatory to talk. We talked about the topic and added our thinking because we found the discussion was helpful and inspiring.

One person in the group noted that we have been discussing about the first topic almost for 3o mins. So the facilitator asked whether we want to continue or to stop it or whether we don’t care if its continued or stopped. Most the people signed that they want to stop the topic now and move to next one. So likewise we managed to discuss 2 topics we voted before finishing the lean coffee in order to attend to the conference sessions.

This was very simple, but the level of energy flowing through the meeting amazed me. I was surprised about the amount of information we managed to dig during such a short time about those 2 topics we discussed. I didn’t have agendas or expectations set in advanced, but I felt its time well spent with some knowledgeable passionate people.

I got to know that there are good lean coffee sessions happening among Lean enthusiastic people in Seattle, Sydney and many other cities…

Here you can find about Seattle Lean Coffee sessions:
http://seattle.leancoffee.org/
 

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