Transforming a Technical Jour Fixe into a Lean Coffee

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One of the clients I am working with has got a weekly Technical Jour Fix scheduled. The goal of this meeting is to get the different teams together. It should encourage them to  talk about current issues and share the knowledge between the teams. I noticed pretty quickly that the meetings were not running effectively. The few people, who participated were either not listening or continued working on their PCs. Often the meeting just got cancelled even though the existing wiki page had suggestions on it.

As you can see the tool “Technical Jour Fixe” was not used effectively.

From technical jour fixe to lean coffee


When I attended the xp2013 Open Space Night the Lean Coffee method came to my mind again. It worked pretty well for the Vienna Tester Gathering and I wanted to try it out for the technical jour fixe too. I simply went to the organizer of the meeting and told him about Lean Coffee. He immediately gave me the chance to moderate the next meeting.

Today the meeting finally took place. I introduced the participants to the Lean Coffee method. We started to write down the things we intended to talk about. This got people to participate actively and not just sit around.

After five minutes there were plenty of topics to talk about. The next step was the dot-voting. This gave us the four topics which we would discuss. Each topic was given a time slot of  10 minutes. The remaining topics might be discussed in the next meeting. Assuming that they are still relevant topics then.

In my opinion it went pretty well. Everybody was engaged and contributed to the discussions. Three out of four discussions finished on time. Before the lean coffee it was often the case that we drifted away from the original topic. However this time this was not the case. I also used a simple kanban board to hightlight the topics still in the queue to discuss, what is currently in discussion and what is done.

I think that the visual queue made it easier for the team to focus.

Summary and outlook

Why did it work? I think it worked because the people were

  • talking about current issues
  • interested in the topic because they voted for it
  • focused due to the time box and  the visual queue

During the discussions I tried to put some smaller sticky notes onto the bigger ones to highlight what we have been talking about. What I was missing were clear action points. Nevertheless it was a good start and I am sure that if we continue the meetings like this we will also solve the action point problem.


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