Lean Coffee Retrospective

Lean Coffee Retrospective

The word lean is associated with eliminating waste.

Here is the story behind the origin of Lean Coffee:

“Lean Coffee started in Seattle in 2009. Jim Benson and Jeremy Lightsmith wanted to start a group that would discuss Lean techniques in knowledge work – but didn’t want to start a whole new cumbersome organization with steering committees, speakers, and such. They wanted a group that did not rely on anything other than people showing up and wanting to learn or create.

Now, Seattle Lean Coffee happens every week, is very popular, and requires only that someone who has been there before shows up – and even then it’s just so they know where we stash the post-it notes.”

A lean meeting format eliminates all that is unnecessary in a traditional meeting. In addition it adds a few principles of its own.

There are several challenges that come up with traditional retrospective meetings.

1.People get bored. Going over the same format week after week can get people disinterested. Changing things up can help bring back the focus.
2.Agenda’s can often be limiting. People might want to discuss things that are not covered in the agenda but still relevant to the sprint and agile retrospective.
3.Some participants might be too dominating and the discussion might revolve around their ideas. This can skew the results and action items at the end of the meeting.

One of the key features of a lean meeting is that it is agendaless. You must be wondering how is that even possible. Let us clarify. When we say that a lean meeting is agendaless it does not mean that the meeting doesn’t have a structure. The agenda of a Lean Meeting is democratically selected at the beginning of the meeting by all participants.

Let’s look at the key steps in organizing and running a Lean Coffee Retrospective Meeting:


The team comes up with ideas for discussion in the meeting. Everyone puts up things that they’d like to take forward. This way everyone has a voice and forum to surface things that matter to them


You might not have the time to discuss all ideas in the meeting. Everyone votes on what they think should be part of the agenda. The items with the highest votes are prioritized for discussion first.


The team talks about the items in the agenda that have been democratically selected. Everyone gets a chance to voice their opinion.

Action Items

Takeaways and action items are listed here to make progress before the next session.

You can also start your Lean Retrospective Meeting with icebreaker questions. It is especially useful if the team is meeting for the first few times or there are a lot of new faces in the meeting. Here are some examples of icebreaker questions for an agile retrospective meeting.

1.What’s a book that affected you so deeply (emotionally or intellectually) that you still regularly think about it?
2.Which fictional character would you want by your side during a zombie apocalypse?
3.What is the last place, outside of the country in which you live, that you travelled?
4.If you had a time machine, would you go back in time to meet your ancestors, or forward in time to meet your descendants?

There are over 300 icebreakers questions you can choose from. Enjoy 🧊 🔨

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