WTEU-59 – A nice cup of Lean Coffee

WTEU-59 – A nice cup of Lean Coffee

Date: Sunday 19th July 2015
Time: 3.30pm – 5.30pm BST
Facilitator: Neil Studd
Attendees: Adriana Oliveira, Andrew Morton, Neil Taylor, Rafał Szypulewski, Raghu, Trisha Agarwal

The Lean Coffee movement began in Seattle in 2009, as an easy way of quickly creating structured discussion without the need to create an agenda beforehand. Participants suggest topics, and their colleagues vote on which topics they’d like to discuss, and this democratic approach ensures that the most popular topics get the highest priority.

Lean Coffee is becoming an increasingly prominent part of conferences and meetups around the world (not just in Europe), but unless you’ve been fortunate enough to experience one, you might not know how they work (or how to run your own). That was the case for most of our attendees this month, who were encountering Lean Coffee for the first time.

We began by watching a brief video overview of a typical Lean Coffee session:

Next, we summarised the key points from the video, giving us the key elements of a typical Lean Coffee:

  • Participants write down the topics that they want to talk about
  • Each person gives a quick introduction to their proposed topics
  • People vote for their favourite topics – 3 votes each
  • Topics get discussed in priority order, in a timebox
  • After the timebox, use Roman voting (thumbs up/down) to decide whether to continue on the topic

Normally a Lean Coffee session is run face-to-face, but thanks to the Lean Coffee Table tool from Ripple Rock, we were able to host our session online. Participants spent 15 minutes exploring the tool, getting a feel for how it worked. It was a little rough around the edges, with a few minor display bugs, but it’s currently in a beta state and was good enough for our needs.

Once we were familiar with the tool, we created a communal board and added our proposed topics. After voting, the topics which we selected for discussion were:

  • Standing up to bullies in the workplace – newbies vs experienced testers (Raghu)
  • Mentoring and the lack of it in many organizations (Rafał)
  • Finding a job as a newbie in testing (Adriana)
  • What do people want to see in local test meetups? (Andrew)
  • Teaching someone about an unfamiliar product/feature (Neil T)

We had lively discussions on each of these topics, using Lean Coffee Table’s built-in timers and thumbs up/down mechanism to guide the conversation and decide how long to spend on each subject. You can see the full details of each discussion in the Session Transcript.

It was an enlightening session with some interesting topics up for discussion. Everyone left the session with an improved understanding for how the Lean Coffee format operates, how it focuses discussion on the topics that matter to people, and an appreciation for how it might be easier to run one in-person rather than electronically!

Further Reading:

About the Author

Neil is a tester from the United Kingdom who has been testing desktop, mobile and web applications for the past ten years, working in a range of agile roles for organisations as varied as Oracle and Last.fm. In his spare time, he participates in freelance and beta testing projects, as a way of learning and developing new approaches to testing.