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As a Scrum Master finding ways to engage your team during a retrospective can be difficult. Once you have them engaged, keeping their attention can prove even harder. One of the more common retrospective tools a Scrum Master has in their belt is that of Lean Coffee. Lean Coffee is a great way to have your team take control of a retrospective and direct where it goes. There are four stages to a standard Lean Coffee. Those are gathering, organizing, voting, and discussion.

Before starting a Lean Coffee, I recommend you have all the necessary tools and energy to begin. Whether doing one in person or remote, you will want plenty of post-its and pens (or the digital equivalent). Having a good cup of coffee or your favorite non-alcoholic beverage does not hurt either.

Starting with an icebreaker is an excellent way to get your team comfortable with talking. You can go with a classic desert island question like what would it be if you could only have one movie while trapped on a desert island? Or you can go another route. Use your imagination.



During the gathering stage, you will take time for the team to write down their ideas for potential topics. At this point, the post-its and pens come into play. Give each team member a few post-its and a pen, and let them have at it. Set a time limit for writing down their ideas to keep things moving. The topics can be anything. The team has the power to direct where the conversation is going. Once the time is up, gather all the post-its.



Now that you have all the post-its, it is time to organize them. With your team, read through each of the ideas for topics. You may find that some of the ideas are very similar or fall under a common category while others stand in another. Work with the team to arrange the ideas into recurring themes.



Once every idea is organized, it is time to vote. Be sure to limit the number of votes each team member has based on the number of participants and ideas. If there are numerous ideas, giving more votes may prove effective. You might consider a smaller number of votes per person if there are very few ideas or a large number of participants.

Set another time limit (roughly five minutes) and have them vote by marking their favorite ideas with a plus sign or other symbol. Voting like this is called dot voting.

It is allowed to vote more than once for an idea so long as they do not use more votes than given at the beginning of voting. Some Scrum Masters like to use stamps or even stickers to facilitate dot voting. Once all votes are counted, you have your priority for discussion.



Set a timer for five minutes and let the conversation commence. While the conversation continues, you will want to ensure you have your facilitator and note-taking hats on. Helping the conversation move on if the team gets stuck is one way you can facilitate. Taking notes here is critical. You will want to capture any action items, blockers, or other vital information the team may need. Once the five minutes is up, you can give a show of hands or thumbs up to continue for another five minutes or move on to the next topic. Lather, rinse, and repeat until you are out of time or topics.


Wrapping Up

Once you are done with the discussion phase, you might think you are all done. You very well could be if you would like. At the very least, I suggest you read through your notes and remind the team of the action items they have discussed. One thing I like to do is to have a retrospective of the retrospective. Ask the group what worked for them and did not work for them with the retrospective. Having this feedback will give you a leg up on the next retrospective.

Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps: Simplifying the jargon

The internet and social media are full of Agile, Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps jargon, including incorrect and misunderstood concepts. This could be problematic for a learner seeking knowledge. Without a course with Scrum Alliance,, or DevOps Institute, this knowledge is difficult to achieve.

The Concepts & Beyond blog is a free suite of articles and videos packaged in tiny chunks. You will learn or refine your knowledge and skills to help your team and organization be effective. When you want to take your knowledge further, we invite you to join us for our  Certified ScrumMaster(CSM),  Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified DevOps Engineering Foundations (DOEF) and Training from the Back of The Room courses across the USA and Canada.

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