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Lean Coffee™ Retro Methodology


Using Lean Coffee™, "participants gather, build an agenda, and begin talking. Conversations are directed and productive because the agenda for the meeting was democratically generated." -

Use it when you want to...
  • Have an open ended conversation that is entirely owned and directed by the team
  • Ensure that the ideas the team collectively wants to emphasize are discussed at the beginning of the retrospective
How it works

Step One: Before the retrospective starts the facilitator should set up a kanban board with three columns:

  • To Do
  • Doing
  • Done

Step Two: To start the retrospective the facilitator should explain how the technique works and provide the team with the timebox for the retrospective (1-2 hours, depending on the size of the team).

Step Three: Ideation. The facilitator should hand out sticky notes to the participants and tell them the timebox for this phase (10-15 minutes should be enough). Participants should keep their sticky notes private so that participants aren't biased by each other's ideas. When the timebox expires, the participants should place their sticky notes in the "To Do" column on the kanban board.

Step Four
: Grouping. Since many sticky notes will likely contain related (or even identical) ideas, participants should group sticky notes into logical themes. Participants can use markers to draw circles around related sticky notes. The facilitator should announce the timebox (10-15 minutes) and encourage the participants to stand up and move from poster to poster to make this part of the retrospective interactive and fun.

Step Five: Dot Voting. The facilitator should announce the timebox (5-10 minutes) and, if the team has never used dot voting before, explain how it works:

  1. Tell each participant that they have a certain number of votes that they can use to indicate their preference for a sticky note or group. Make sure participants understand that they can distribute their votes as they wish. For example, one participant could place all their votes on a single sticky note to indicate how important it is to him or her to discuss that idea. On the other hand, another participant could distribute their votes evenly across many sticky notes.
  2. Have the participants vote on sticky notes or groups (they can use a marker to place a dot above the sticky they want to vote for).
  3. After voting is complete, the facilitator should sort the sticky notes based on the number of votes each received. This sorted list represents the collective prioritization of the sticky notes.

Step Six: Discussion. The facilitator should announce the timebox for this phase (45 minutes to 1.5 hours should be enough). The facilitator can optionally choose to timebox the discussion of each individual sticky note as well (to 5 or 10 minutes). The advantage of this approach is that it tends to keep the conversation on topic and moving at a faster pace. As discussion starts for a sticky note, the facilitator should move the sticky note to the "Doing" column on the kanban board. When discussion is over for the sticky note, the facilitator should move it to the "Done" column on the kanban board, and then move on to the next sticky note in priority order.

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