Getting MicroTasks Done: On Nitpicking


You know, that one email or refilling the coffee maker or asking Susan if she got ahold of your new client?

Those are little interruptions we put upon ourselves. We’ll be working along and somewhere in the back of our brain they become louder and louder until we stop what we are doing and get them out of our hair.

The nitpicky little tasks do need to be done and you’ll never put them on a Personal Kanban, there’s too many of them and doing them takes as long to make the sticky and the task does to complete.

So why not set aside time for them. Create a “nitpicky” sticky and when you pull it, do all of those things as a block – as a pomodoro or two. They will come with copious context switching, so make sure you take a little time off afterwards to recuperate.

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Clarity > Coffee

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 12.13.20 PM (1)

Okay. So I recognize the title of this post might stir up some controversy, especially among my fellow coffee enthusiasts. Not to mention it undoubtedly puts me at risk of getting exiled from my beloved adopted home, Seattle. And yes, perhaps it even seems a tad hypocritical how I’m writing this while enjoying a double shot at my local overpriced third wave roastery.

But I digress…

First off, I am in no way suggesting you – or we – instead consume thimbles of “energizing” wheatgrass rather than continue our relationship with our BFF, Joe. Let’s be honest, Joe energizes us, he makes us alert. He leaves us happy. Sure, these effects can be fleeting, the result of the temporary dopamine response – “the motivation molecule” – caffeine triggers in our brain. This causes us to build up our tolerance and increase our dependence on Joe’s services more often than we might take notice of. And when we try to fight our need for Joe, his absence leaves us tired, and cranky, impairing our focus, our memory, our ability to plan, our processing speed, and our decision-making capabilities. All that notwithstanding, Joe’s often the first one we call on to boost our mental acuity and usher us through our midday slump.

Now I respect the power of confirmation bias enough to know that at this point, I could take this post in one of two directions. There’s a surfeit of scientific research out there that supports the link between coffee and productivity and conversely, enough to suggest it wrecks havoc on our teeth, bones, liver…in addition to our productivity.

Neither of those are where I am going with this.

My issue is with reliance on coffee as a first responder – for motivation, for making us less anxious, for combatting the brain fog so many of us knowledge workers experience. In those cases where our mental performance needs a boost, the dopamine release we chase through the caffeine in our coffee is little more than a quick fix. The short bursts of energy we experience simply aren’t sustainable, and so we’re forced to reach for yet another double- or triple-shot to maintain its effects. When we do, the resulting adrenaline rush proves counterproductive, leading to more irritability, more stress and ultimately, we crash.

That’s the thing about Joe: he’s temporary. Joe has commitment issues. And while he breeds dependency he’s simply not in it for the duration.

Clarity? Now clarity is in it for the long haul. You want to tame anxiety, elevate your mood, achieve focus at a sustainable pace while creating good work habits in the process?

Clarity’s your huckleberry.

That’s because the brain hates ambiguity. In fact, it LOATHES it. Two of the brain’s primary functions are to reduce risk and optimize rewards. It satisfies the second need with coffee. It satisfies both with, well, care to venture a guess?

You got it. With clarity.

We fear what we can’t see, what we don’t understand. By their very nature knowledge workers – creating “products” that often have no tangible steps, no physical output – operate in a world of ambiguity. And we know how the brain feels about that. The brain wants assurances. It wants to know upfront what output it can expect from an input and so it wants to be certain it’s equipped with all the (pre-existing) knowledge it needs to address any situation. When it has too little information to go on, when it encounters the unfamiliar and perceives it as a threat (whether real or imagined), its fight or flight mechanism is engaged and anxiety results.

Enter clarity.

Studies show anxiety diminishes and success rates soar when abstract goals – the very nature of knowledge work – are clarified, when they are transformed into concrete and attainable steps. Such is the case when we visualize work on a Personal Kanban. Especially for knowledge workers, getting all those amorphous tasks out of your head and easily visualized on a board demystifies your priorities, your tradeoffs, and makes work manageable. Evolutionary biology teaches us that having processed images long before it did text or language, the brain deciphers images tens of thousands of times faster than it does text. Not only does externalizing goals by mapping them out on a kanban increase the likelihood of achieving them, visualizing progress big or small results in a rewarding boost of dopamine.

As we see with our reaction to coffee, we then chase that dopamine release. We adjust our behavior to trigger a consistent flow of it by perpetuating the very action that makes us happy. Clarity and the completion it fosters gives us the focus, and the motivation to continue this virtuous work cycle.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 11.51.59 PM

So the next time your brain needs a boost, consider getting your dopamine-fix from your board…not your barista.

For more on how visualizing your work (and limiting your WIP!) with Personal Kanban can improve your clarity and ultimately, your effectiveness, register for our FREE webinar.

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I’m Having A Creative Emergency

It can happen.

It does happen.

We are being good Personal Kanbaners, we are limiting our WIP. Suddenly we have a burst of inspiration and we just HAVE to get something done.

Should we do it? Should we blow our WIP and jump into this new task that has set our mind ablaze?

The answer is … maybe yes.

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What is the Personal in Personal Kanban?

What is Personal?

The “Personal” in Personal Kanban can mean many things.

Capital P Personal – This is the personal nature of you. Your work, your decisions, your professionalism, your problem solving, your improvement, your life at home, your life period. Since we rarely act fully alone, no Personal Kanban is ever going to only relate to us as individuals and it is rarely only going to be used by us. However, we will want to track those things that are us. We can’t hide them or hide from them. If we do, others will always be giving us work without knowing what we can really do for them.

Of Value to People – You create things every day. As a 21st century worker, we are always building things, combining information, processing, and evolving. Tracking only products in our Personal Kanban removes the human element. How much work are you doing? Are you or your teammates overloaded? Can you help each other? Can work be more enjoyable? The human (you) is the creator.

(Inter)Personal –  Who do you interact with at work? Who are your clients? How do your clients and coworkers know what you are doing and when? How do you know when others are in need of your help? How do they know when you are? Life is relationships. Making it clear who is doing what and how loaded they are helps us all. Most of the discomfort between people comes from misunderstanding what is going on in their lives. The more overloaded we are, the less tolerant we are of inconveniences caused by our teammates. We blame them. They become hurt and blame us. Things spiral downwards. The (Inter)Personal nature of Personal Kanban keeps everyone apprised of what’s going on and why.

If your kanban isn’t taking these into account, you just may have an impersonal Kanban … and who wants that? :-)

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Five Years of Personal Kanban | Travel, Exploration, and Learning

It’s been 5 wonderful years since Tonianne and I released the Personal Kanban book.

The people we’ve met, the problems we’ve helped solve, the boards we’ve seen have been amazing. Every problem we’ve seen has had unique bits and predictable bits. What’s been fun is learning what are those really predictable parts, what parts seem predictable, and what is novel.

We’ve learned a lot since we started Modus Cooperandi and since we launched the book. Why we make certain decisions, why we focus on some things and not others, why we are so easily distracted, what systems actually help us create quality work and finish.

This year we’ve launched a new webinar series and an online Personal Kanban class that extends what was in the book.  Why an online class and not another book? Because we’ve found that human contact and short bursts of information mean a lot when adults are learning.

We hope to see you there and thank you for five years of Personal Kanban awesome!

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Little Cues

Little Cues Help Communication

Little Cues Help Communication

Little cues in the tools we use can be very helpful in helping us communicate effectively. The shot to the right is from Slack, a tool that helps us at Modus Institute communicate, collaborate, and stay informed.

We use it not only to chat with each other, but also to get status from our Personal Kanbans in LeanKit and Trello, as well as broadcast activities of our students at This means that no matter where we are, we have both our Personal Kanban and the information in Slack keeping us up to date.

But we do work all over the world and sometimes if I’m in London and John is in Los Angeles, it is hard for me to know exactly what time it is for him. Even though he’s online right now, the slack channel is telling me that for John, Toni, and Sam it is outside normal working hours. This helps by letting me know that John might not reply right away or at all, even though is shows him online (it’s green).

This helps me respect John’s time and better plan for what I can do right now. If I need any of the three of them to complete a task, I should wait to pull it when they are truly available to collaborate.

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Complete Meaningful Tasks

The Musing

Our work should provide value to someone or something, otherwise why do it?

When we build our Personal Kanban, we are building a board that drives us toward completing our work. But is that work worth doing?


  1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
  2. person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.


  1. estimate the monetary worth of (something).
  2. consider (someone or something) to be important or beneficial; have a high opinion of.

The words we use to describe value (regard, importance, usefulness, standards, beneficial) indicate that value is not merely based on cash, but also on how it makes us feel, how we respond to it.  So when we say we want to understand the value of our work it means a great deal to us, to our colleagues, to our companies, and to society. You figure out in your own Ayn Rand to Che Guevara scale where your own value equilibrium lies.

But … understand it and work towards it.

The Practical Application

Let’s take a look at a simple case to see what this means practically.


Over the Christmas break I quickly assessed how secure my internet holdings were. The answer was rather frightening. I, like most people, was extremely susceptible to hackers getting ahold of emails and passwords and running amok with my accounts.

I downloaded Dashlane and began working with it to set strong and constantly changing passwords for all my accounts.

My first ticket read “Update Dashlane”. I knew what Dashlane was and why I was updating it, so that seemed to make sense and tell me why I was doing the work.


The problem: I had no idea what updating Dashlane meant to me. I knew I wanted to get done by the end of the week, but updating all your passwords and making sure you are letting others impacted by those changes know what’s changed leaves “Update Dashlane” as an open ended task. I need a Victory Condition.

So I created this ticket. “Update five sites in Dashlane.” Okay, great. That had a clear victory condition.

Visualizing a goal

The problem: I had no idea what I was working toward or where I was in the process. Or what I was working toward. What was my goal? I wanted to be more secure. Dashlane gives me a metric about security.

I wanted to become more secure, not just update sites. Who cares if I update 100 sites and am still dismally unsecure?

Visualizing Clear Goals

So, I changed the ticket yet again. This time to give myself a specific goal that was measured by Dashlane. I want to get to 80% by Friday. So 50% today, 60% tomorrow, 70% Thursday and 80% Friday. Four tickets, clear goal, all with demonstrated value.

This was today’s card, it’s surrounded by other “Dones” which say what I am doing and the value provided. Note the card next to the 50% card tells me not just to reply to my colleague in Oregon, but also what resolution to get out of that reply.

Sage Advice

When you create a card, ask yourself what the goal or the value of that work is. That not only gives you the task to complete, but the way to know when you have completed it. Quality and value are hard to determine without a definition. Let yourself know when you’ve achieved victory.

And do yourself a favor … if you can’t come up with a goal or a value statement for your work, strongly question why you are doing it in the first place.

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Visualize Your Past

Visualization Retrospective

It’s New Years again and time to take stock of things in our lives. As we know, the two rules of Personal Kanban are to Visualize Your Work and Limit Your Work-In-Progress (WIP).

One of the most important factors in limiting or controlling our WIP is understanding our work – this includes appreciating our work, when we’ve completed it, and what we did to complete it.

2014 has been a pretty tough year for me personally and when I look back on the last 12 months I tend to view it in my own pessimism bias.

But Timehop, an app I have on my Galaxy Tab, keeps thwarting my pessimism and it’s doing it by confronting me with facts. Simply confronting me with what actually happened one, two, three, four, and five years ago. Timehop is an automated long-range Happening right nowRetrospective.

Right now it is nearly exactly one year since I stood in my office in Seattle and drew the image above.  See? That’s right now.

If you would have asked me, I would have said that was at least two years ago. It’s significant because it means that those drawings led to the Modus Cooperandi Problem Solving System, about a dozen Lunch&Learns where we taught customers the process, and a great partnership with Riot Games to create a complete version of it.

When we have sour notes, we tend to allow those notes to overwhelm our interpretation of the entire song. We can have one long very pleasant event and then something happens at the end and we say, “That just ruined the whole thing for me.” I was allowing this last year to be painted with a broad brush because I was focused on a few particularly painful episodes.

Timehop, here, served as my visual control, sampling my social media past and showing me what I have actually been doing. What other visual controls are you employing beyond your Personal Kanban to keep track of the good work you’ve done?

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Fuel and Motivation

Sometimes we plod.

We get ourselves into projects or situations where the only way out is through. We find ourselves on the treadmill. Maybe being productive, but feeling our passion waning or perhaps even gone.

I awoke each day over the last week feeling very much this way. I could not find motivation for action. I could still act, of course. I wasn’t in a coma or unable to move or think. I just didn’t feel the spark of motivation.

One morning, at about five am, I was staring at the ceiling thinking about this. “Mister Personal Kanban isn’t allowed to be unmotivated,” I thought. But I was.

Mulling over motivation, I came to the thought of a car. What motivates a car? Fuel. Gasoline or electricity, certainly. But it’s part of a system. A bucket of gasoline or a fully charged battery does no good without tires, steering, and place to go.

Fuel therefore is only useful in a system that allows motivation.

I ran all over the Seattle area the last few days brooding about this.

What is the fuel of my motivational system? How can I get more fuel? How can I fine-tune the system?

Here is what I’ve created:

I believe we are motivated by negative and positive pressures, projects, ideals and short term goals. These are our real fuel. How we combine them is the system.

My Negative Fuel: Money

Filthy Lucre

Filthy Lucre

Like most people, I find myself thinking about money. I spend way too much of my time concerned with it. Retirement, bills, unexpected expenses, the lot of it.

I am starting with it because our negative fuel tends to become preoccupation. Negative fuel is important because our fears can guide us away from harm. When it becomes preoccupation, however, it is a distraction at best and a derailleur at worst.



My Positive Fuel: Shared Epiphanies

This is Beth

This is Beth

So this person here is Beth Wibbles Howell and she’s a truly wonderful person. She works in Milwaukee and has been working at the same place for 14 years – nearly unheard of in IT. I haven’t worked with her for two years, but her dedication and interest in making her workplace better for her and her teams is inspiring. I get to meet a lot of people in my work. There is no better moment than when I’m working with a person or with a team and everyone involved has an epiphany at the same time. Something enduring is born at moments like that. With Beth and others I’ve watched people change how their teams worked for the better. When they change their teams, they change their lives…and mine as well.


Project: Modus Institute

My Project: MI

My Project: MI

My current major project is launching Modus Institute, an online school that focuses on cutting edge management techniques. The nature of personal, team, and organizational work is in a state of upheaval, yet we are still engaging in management techniques that are proven to fail. (See, I’m so into it that I’m talking about the project and not what a project is…)

I believe we all need an active project as part of our motivational fuel system. The project is a container for hopes, desires, and potential – which encapsulate a view of our future. In the project, we set a desired attainable future state. The project is not a wish, it is implementable. Without a project, it is unlikely we have direction.

Ideals: Understanding the Whys of Our World

Finding the Whys

Finding the Whys

Tonianne and I have traveled the world working with clients, putting on Kaizen Camps, and speaking at conferences. We’ve seen mundane, beautiful, terrifying, and joyous things. Sometimes all at the same time.

The picture to the left was taken in November 2014 in Bangalore, India, by Tonianne. It is of a woman hanging up her laundry. The pile to the left of her is literally a pile of smoldering garbage. The small bucket near her left leg is what the clothes were washed in.

Out of the picture is the tent in which she lived with her little daughter, who was a painfully beautiful little girl with deep bright eyes that conveyed a sharp little mind that had seen more than her few years should have allowed. She was nowhere near as clean as the laundry.

I could write a hundred pages about the few moments we were there. But suffice it to say, there are times where I am with people like Beth, where I can make a difference. And times like on the streets of Bangalore where I am utterly powerless.

There are things in this world that have no “why”, but I’m drawn to try to understand them nonetheless. Maybe as I do, I can find the nooks and crannies where I can make a difference and not simply be overwhelmed. Ideals drive us to places we don’t want to go and urge us to attain the unattainable. We need our Don Quixotes and our Sancho Panzas.

Short Term Goal: Finish Something!

Value Lies in Completion

Value Lies in Completion

Every day you don’t finish something, you didn’t finish something. That has a direct impact on your psyche. We need to set goals and finish them. I find each day (this shouldn’t be too shocking) that I need to select a few things from my Personal Kanban’s backlog that I must finish today. Then I get them done.

I try to have a few other rules for me personally.

  1. Make it sharable: Get the short term goal into someone else’s hands. For me it might be a blog post to the world or it could be some preliminary writing I show Tonianne.
  2. Make it valuable: Try to finish at least one thing per day that you conceive to be and end product. This doesn’t always happen, but I find that if I try to do this I will do it often. Creating value creates momentum.
  3. Admire your work: For many, our first temptation when looking at something we’ve done is to see what could be improved. Things can always be improved. But that thing you’ve just created didn’t exist before you did it. Take some time to be proud of your work and let it surprise you. There will be time for editing later. For now, admire your own work.


Motivational Fuel Board

My Current Fuel Board

So I made this visual control, to keep me focused on what’s important and what is driving me. This shows my personal motivational system and the elements that fuel it. The short term I’ll update daily, the project I’ll update every so often. And we’ll see how the others change.


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Methoden für Lean Change: Lean Coffee

Lean Change verwendet Lean Coffee als Experiment, um heraus zu finden, wer sich für eine Veränderung interessiert und diese ggf. unterstützt. Der Change Agent lädt zum Lean Coffee ein und unterstützt dieses als Koordinator. Meist verselbständigt sich das Format und Teilnehmer, die einmal dabei waren, initiieren eigene weitere Lean Coffees.

Ursprünglich ist Lean Coffee ist ein 2009 von den beiden Agile Coaches Jim Benson und Jeremy Lightsmith entworfenes Format für ein Treffen ohne vorab definierte Agenda, zu dem jeder einfach mit einem Aushang einladen kann und bei dem die Teilnehmer zu Beginn die Themen selbst bestimmen. Um möglichst viele Themen besprechen zu können, wird die Zeit pro Thema limitiert.

Lean Coffee ist ein strukturiertes Format für unstrukturierte Meetings:

  • Lean, weil es den Prinzipien des Lean Thinking (u.a. Verschwendung vermeiden, Lernen verstärken, Eigenverantwortung, das Ganze sehen [Pop 03]) verpflichtet ist, und
  • Coffee, weil eine lockere, informelle Atmosphäre wie in einem Coffee-Shop erreicht werden soll. Daher werden die Teilnehmer auch eingeladen, ihren Kaffee mitzubringen.

Bei einem Lean Coffee wird immer davon ausgegangen, dass die richtigen Leute anwesend sind, da nur diejenigen kommen, denen der angekündigte Gesprächsgegenstand wirklich wichtig ist.
Für Lean Coffee gibt es keine Zeitvorgaben oder -empfehlungen, üblich ist eine Dauer von 1 bis 1,5h.

Einladung per Aushang

Invitation to Lean CoffeeWer ein Lean Coffee veranstalten will, hängt dazu einfach Einladungen aus. Diese geben Ort und Zeit sowie grob den zu besprechenden Themenkomplex an (s. Abbildung). Durch die Einladung wird auch deutlich, dass es keine Agenda gibt, anhand der vorab definierte Themen besprochen werden. Da die Einladungen von möglichst vielen gelesen werden sollen, hängt man diese am besten an stark frequentierten Orten aus, z.B. am Schwarzen Brett, in der Kaffeeküche bei der Kaffeemaschine oder an Durchgangstüren in den Fluren. Im Gegensatz zu formellen Meetings erfolgen keine direkten persönlichen Einladungen per Email o.ä.

Abbildung 2: Ausgehängte Einladung zum Lean Coffee

Abbildung 2: Ausgehängte Einladung zum Lean Coffee

Abbildung 1 zeigt eine Einladung zu einem Lean Coffee, Abbildung 2 eine ausgehängte Einladung.

Ablauf eines Lean Coffees
Üblicherweise eröffnet der Einladende das Lean Coffee.

Als erstes ist unter den Teilnehmern ein Koordinator zu finden. Dieser koordiniert das Sammeln der Themen, führt das für alle einsehbare Themen-Board und sorgt dafür, dass die festgelegte Diskussionszeit eingehalten wird. Der Einladende fragt die Anwesenden, ob jemand die Koordination übernehmen möchte, andernfalls übernimmt er dies.

Zu Beginn des Lean Coffees sammeln die Teilnehmer die zu besprechenden Themen und priorisieren diese. Anschließend wird mit dem für alle Teilnehmer wichtigsten Thema begonnen und dieses eine festgelegte Zeit diskutiert. Nach Ablauf der Zeit entscheiden die Teilnehmer per einfachem Handzeichen, ob sie dieses Thema weiter diskutieren oder mit dem nächsten starten wollen.

Koordination der Themen mit einem Themenboard
Zunächst ist unter den Teilnehmern ein Koordinator zu finden. Dieser behält die Zeit pro Thema im Blick, koordiniert das Sammeln der Themen und führt das für alle einsehbare Themen-Board.Spalte

Das Themen-Board hat drei Spalten mit den Überschriften “zu diskutieren”, “in Diskussion” und “diskutiert” und kann auf einem Flipchart oder Whiteboard geführt werden. Die einzelnen Spalten bedeuten dabei:

  • zu diskutieren“: Hier werden alle Themen gesammelt, die besprochen werden sollen,
  • in Diskussion“: Hier wird das aktuell besprochene Thema angezeigt,
  • diskutiert“: Hier werden die Themen gesammelt, die bereits besprochen wurden.

Auf Haftnotizen werden die einzelnen Themen angezeigt und „wandern“ auf dem Themen-Board von der Spalte „zu diskutieren“ über die Spalte „in Diskussion“ in die Spalte „diskutiert“.

Jeder bringt seine Themen ein
Wer ein Thema besprechen möchte, schreibt dieses auf eine Haftnotiz und hängt diese an das Board in die Spalte “zu diskutieren”. Es muss nicht jeder Teilnehmer ein Thema vorschlagen. Das Themensammeln ist abgeschlossen, wenn kein Teilnehmer mehr ein Thema anbietet. Üblicherweise dauert das Sammeln nur einige Minuten. Wenn sich während der Diskussionen neue Themen ergeben, werden diese ebenfalls am Themen-Board gesammelt. Diese können besprochen werden, wenn nach Abschluss aller Diskussionen noch Zeit verbleibt.

Im Anschluss an das Sammeln bittet der Moderator jeden Themen-Anbieter sein Thema mit 1-2 Sätzen kurz vorzustellen.
Ein Beispiel: Ein Mitarbeiter möchte agiles Projektmanagement ausprobieren und sucht Unterstützer dafür. Dazu lädt er zu einem Lean Coffee ein. Von den Teilnehmern kamen u.a. als Unterthemen dazu „Was wird dann anders sein?“, „Wie bekommen wir Management-Unterstützung?“, „Welche agile Methode sollen wir anwenden?“ u.ä.

Priorisieren der Themen
Da die Zeit des Lean Coffees begrenzt ist, können nur die wichtigsten eingebrachten Themen besprochen werden. Daher müssen die Teilnehmer die vorgeschlagenen Themen priorisieren, um diese nach absteigender Wichtigkeit zu besprechen. Je nach Dauer der Diskussionen zu den Themen kann es passieren, dass Themen mit geringer Priorität, also wenig Interesse, aus Zeitgründen nicht mehr diskutiert werden können.

Das Priorisieren kann z.B. durch das sog. „Dot-Voting“ erfolgen: Dabei erhält jeder Teilnehmer drei kleine runde Aufkleber, die er auf die Themen, die ihn interessieren, kleben kann. Er verteilt die Punkte entsprechend der Wichtigkeit der Themen für ihn: Wenn ihn z.B. drei Themen gleich stark interessieren, dann erhalten alle drei Themen je einen Punkt; wenn ihn ein Thema besonders stark interessiert, dann vergibt er alle drei Punkte für dieses. Alternativ zu den Aufklebern können auch drei Striche mit Stiften gemacht werden. Die Themen werden anschließend nach absteigender Punktanzahl sortiert. Es wird mit dem Thema begonnen, das die meisten Punkte und damit das höchste Interesse hat.
Damit möglichst viele Themen bearbeitet werden können und die Zeitverteilung gerecht ist, bestimmt die Gruppe ein festen Zeitvorgabe pro Thema. Nach dieser, z.B. 5 oder 10 Minuten, wird das nächste Thema gestartet. Wer mit seinem Thema schneller fertig wird, kann dieses vorzeitig beenden und so Themen mit niedriger Priorität Zeit schenken.

Diskussion und Verlängerung der Diskussionszeit
Wenn die Diskussion beginnt, hängt der Koordinator die Haftnotiz mit diesem Thema aus der Spalte “zu diskutieren” in die Spalte “in Diskussion”. Zu Beginn der Diskussion stellt der Teilnehmer, der dieses Thema einbrachte, dieses in wenigen Sätzen noch einmal kurz vor. Er ist auch für den Umgang mit den Ergebnissen verantwortlich.

Nach Ablauf der festgelegten Diskussionszeit lässt der Moderator die Gruppe abstimmen, ob sie dieses Thema weiter diskutieren möchte oder das nächste Thema an die Reihe kommen soll. Dazu ruft der Moderator jeden Teilnehmer dazu auf, per einfachem Handzeichen seine Meinung dazu kund zu tun:

  • Daumen hoch“: Ich will dieses Thema weiter diskutieren
  • Daumen nach unten“: Für mich ist das Thema ausdiskutiert, ich will ein neues Thema diskutieren.

Die Gruppe sollte sich vorher einigen, wie sie mit dem Abstimmungsergebnis umgeht:

  • entweder Mehrheitsentscheid: Die einfache Mehrheit der Handzeichen entscheidet.
  • oder Veto-Entscheid: Sobald auch nur ein „Daumen nach unten“ gezeigt wird, wird dies als Veto interpretiert und das nächste Thema gestartet. (Der Koordinator darauf, dass die anderen Teilnehmer sich nicht beim Veto-Geber wegen dessen Entscheidung beschweren.)

Wird das Thema weiter diskutiert, sollte eine kürzere Zeitspanne (z.B. nur 3 Minuten) dafür zur Verfügung stehen. Nach Ablauf der Verlängerung wird wieder abgestimmt. Besteht dann immer noch Diskussionsbedarf, ist dieses Thema den Teilnehmern offenbar so wichtig, dass sich ein extra Meeting lohnt, in dem es komplett ausdiskutiert wird. Der Teilnehmer, der dieses Thema einbrachte, wird ein extra Meeting dazu ansetzen.
Ist die Diskussion zu diesem Thema beendet, wird seine Haftnotiz in die Spalte „diskutiert“ gehängt und das nächste Thema startet, indem seine Haftnotiz in die Spalte „in Diskussion“ gehängt wird.
Sollten nach Ablauf der Zeit noch hoch priorisierte Themen übrig sein, kann dies eine gute Motivation für weitere Lean Coffees sein. Allerdings ist dann darauf zu achten, dass nicht einfach mit der Themen-Liste weiter gemacht wird, sondern das Format komplett wieder durchlaufen wird, also mit Themensammeln begonnen wird.

Mit dem Lean Coffee-Format kann auch experimentiert werden, um die für sich passende Variante zu finden. So kann bei Lean Coffees, die nur dem Austausch von Informationen dienen sollen („Informationsaustausch-Lean Coffee“), die Priorisierung weggelassen werden und die Diskussionszeit auf z.B. 3 oder 5 Minuten verkürzt werden.

Auch kann – um erst mal einen Überblick über die Themenlandschaft zu bekommen – zunächst ein kurzes Informationsaustausch-Lean Coffee durchgeführt werden und anschließend z.B. per Dot-Voting entschieden werden, in welches Thema man tiefer einsteigen möchte.

Abgrenzung zu Open Space
Lean Coffee unterscheidet sich von Open Space dadurch, dass

  • es nur eine Diskussion mit allen Teilnehmern gibt,
  • die Diskussion zu einem Thema von vornherein zeitlich begrenzt ist und
  • am Ende des Treffens nicht notwendigerweise ein Aktionsplan steht. Daher eignet sich Lean Coffee besser zum Erfahrungsaustausch.

Lean Coffee ist ein strukturiertes agenda-loses Meeting-Format, bei dem die Teilnehmer die Tagesordnung durch die Themen, die sie einbringen, selbst bestimmen. Um möglichst viele Themen zu besprechen, wird die Länge der Diskussion pro Thema durch Zeitbegrenzung limitiert.

Lean Coffee unterscheidet sich von anderen Meetings dadurch, dass

  • jeder formlos einladen kann,
  • es ein hierarchie-freies Meeting ist,
  • keine inhaltliche Vorbereitung notwendig ist,
  • es durch Zeitbegrenzung und Abstimmungen keine ausufernden Diskussionen gibt,
  • die Teilnehmer sich einbringen können, indem sie die ihnen wichtigen Themen adressieren,
  • durch Priorisierung die Themen zuerst besprochen werden, die den meisten Teilnehmern am wichtigsten sind.

Lean Coffee lebt davon, dass jede Gruppe damit experimentiert und ausprobiert, was für sie am besten passt. Dies bezieht alle Komponenten von Lean Coffee ein: die Diskussionszeit, das Priorisierungsverfahren etc. Insofern ist dieser Artikel ein Vorschlag für eigene Experimente.

[Pop 03]: Poppendieck, Mary und Poppendieck, Tom: Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit for Software Development Managers. Addison Wesley. 2003

(Dieser Beitrag basiert auf dem Ausgangsmaterial für einen Artikel für das Projekt Magazin)

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