Weekly team meetings taking away your lifeforce? Just try this.

Is this the scene at your work when another meeting is called?

Is this the scene at your work when another meeting is called?

Just because team meetings can be a soulless drain of vital lifeforce doesn’t mean they are not important.

For many people, the conditions for work being a satisfying experience is that we are ‘alone together’.  Oxymoron fans are digging it the most, but what I’m getting at is that most of us like some sort of autonomy/authority/control over what we do and how we do it, and at the same time, most of us need some sort of connection to other people to feel OK.

Work lets us do both.

And in most organisations, meetings are the primary forum in which we have the chance to form a connection as a group, meaning the chance to satisfy one of the fundamental conditions for work being OK.  Or better.

Which is why they are important.   And why it’s worth trying something new if your meetings are driving you into the gutter of existential despair.

So try lean coffee!

Lean coffee (which is a trademarked thing) is a ‘structured, but agenda-less meeting‘ in the words you’ll find on the website itself:  http://leancoffee.org/ .  Better yet, check out co-originator Jim Benson (he of personal kanban fame) talking about it for 3:37 on YouTube right here.

In my ongoing quest to see how simple we can make things, here’s the steps I teach.  I make an adjustment to the ‘discuss’ part to give us even more focus:

You’ve already outlined the Purpose of your weekly meetings, which is generally something like: ‘see how we’re tracking for the quarter and address anything that needs to be discussed’.  Then it’s just…..

  • Post-Its - each person writes down on a post-it what they would like to discuss and puts it on the wall.  One post-it per item. Manager included (they don’t get their own special ‘manager’ colour post-it by the way).  Group similar ones together.
  • Vote - each person has two ‘dots’, to distribute as they wish among the post-its, then put them into popularity order.
  • Need - whoever wrote the next post-it to be discussed is asked what they need.  Like this: “OK Adam, ‘new e-learning module’…that was yours…what do you need“.  If I start telling a war-story or pontificating, just interrupt me and say “sorry….just wondering….what do you need?“.  (This simple question I learned from Brian Robertson and it  makes all the difference)

And that’s it!  If any decisions are made, write them down on a post-it, same with any actions, stick em on the wall too.  At the end, take a photo of those post-its with your phone and send around to the attendees.


Why can this work better?  Here are some reasons…

  • It uses the wisdom and intuition in the room to arrive at the agenda….which means it focusses on the work (which the ‘I’m here for results’ people like)
  • It provides a structure that gives everyone the opportunity for a voice….which means it focusses on people too (which the ‘I’m here to connect with others’ people like)
  • Hobby-horses stay as hobbies, and those that are riding them realise so
  • It lets the group ‘see’ the meeting on the wall which creates a feeling of working together on something rather than staring down at a boring agenda in the correct font
  • It’s hard work…in a good way.  Which generally leads to more fun too.

So, give it a shot!  It works at all ‘levels’ of the organisation.

One proviso…try it for a least 5 meetings before you ditch it.  The first three are often weird because it’s new.  Schedule an official ‘review meeting’ at Week 6 so people don’t panic that this will go forever if they don’t like it.

Worst-case scenario is you send a message that you’re willing to try new things to make the place work better.  You can probably live with that.

Likely-case scenario?  Lively team meetings that lead to both connection and outcomes that make work worth it.

Worth a crack.


Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

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