Lean Altbier (aka “Lean Coffee”)

Another month, another agile meetup:

This time we tried out the “Lean Coffee” approach to facilitate a discussion in the whole group about a range of topics. As the meetup takes place in a brewpub for Düsseldorf’s typical type of beer “Altbier” we dubbed it “Lean Altbier” and it went down like this:

  • Everyone writes down topics they’d like to discuss on stickies (1 topic per sticky)
  • Stickies are collected and read out. The person who wrote it describes the topic in 1 or 2 sentences
  • We put all stickies on a cardboard menu and passed it around the table so that everyone could distribute 2 votes
  • Order the stickies according to votes
  • Start with the topic of highest interest

Originally we thought we’d just talk about each topic until the discussion dies down, but it seems that discussions rarely completely die. Just more and more people detach until only 2 or 3 keep talking. So I’ve started to set a timer and once the time is up, people give a quick thumbs up or down. Majority of thumbs up gives the topic an additional time box, thumbs down moves the discussion on to the next topic. This makes sure that the discussion stays interesting for most participants.

We covered topics as diverse as

  • Agile Management
  • Experiences with Kanban-Pizza Game
  • Agile QA
  • Why ScrumMaster (“default” in Germany) and not a Coach (“default” in USA)?
  • and more

Debate was lively and at least one regular participant declared our “Lean Altbier” evening it to be the “most interesting, most valuable meet up evening yet”.

Lean Coffee lived up to its intention of being “the least structure necessary for a coherent and productive meeting. No more, no less.” Previously I’d even participated in conference calls using Lean Coffee and it worked! It’s like a one-track mini-open space. My husband gave me the idea that we could also organize an evening of 5 minute lightning talks with it. Oh, and I could turn this into an activity for the Retr-O-Mat! So many possibilities!

What can you think of? Or have even tried out?

PS: This is Activity #51 in Retr-O-Mat