Many retrospective formats apply a structure that categorises team member contributions based on a predefined set of themes. This can be really useful, as it helps focus the team on things that can be improved, removed, or done more often.But what would happen if you tried a completely agenda-less approach to your retrospective session? I encourage you to give this a try. The results are, in my experience, always energising, interesting and collaborative; and always a great team-builder.Allowing the team to completely direct the agenda can surface discussions that may otherwise have never happened. Let's look at a powerful facilitation tool that can assist you: Lean Coffee.Lean Coffee is a structured, yet agenda-less meeting. Participants gather, build an agenda, and begin talking. Conversations are directed and productive because the agenda for the meeting was democratically generated.
The format for Lean Coffee is very simple. This is intentional. It is meant to have the least structure necessary for a coherent and productive meeting. No more, no less.
Normally we propose challenging questions that you can put to your team to bring out more ideas, however, these are challenging questions that you may get from the group and our suggestions on how best to respond."Should we carry-over topics that we didn't discuss in our last meeting into the next one?"There is no right or wrong answer. If you want the administrative burden of holding notes in storage until the next meeting, go ahead. Alternatively, allow each meeting to generate their own topics. If a topic is important enough to one attendee they will probably carry it over themselves into the next meeting."How do we run a lean coffee meeting for a distributed/remote team?"You can use an online whiteboard such as www.webwhiteboard.comYou may find it easier to use a tool built specifically for Lean Coffee. Here are a few that we know of:
Lean Coffee could be one of the best retrospective sessions that your team has never had. It ensures that everyone's voice is heard, not just the loudest in your team.Lean Coffee can generate more ideas than any other meeting format.Lean Coffee creates a participative environment, empowering 'employees' by sharing the agenda and decision-making in how that agenda unfolds.Most of all, Lean Coffee is easy to run and can be used in almost any context. It's an essential tool to have up your sleeve as a facilitator and can bring surprising results given its simplicity.