No Image Available

Alex Pukinskis

Rally Software

Lead Analyst

Read more about Alex Pukinskis

Lean meetings – bringing agility to your business meetings


We’ve all participated in a “bad” meeting – they’re all too common in the corporate world today. But, why do good meetings go bad?

Often, it’s due to the way a meeting is structured: too many agenda items, or a vague agenda. Maybe you joined because the boss called the meeting, and you felt compelled to attend. Or, the open structure of the meeting leaves room for side conversations that are really only relevant to certain meeting attendees. But, there’s no denying it – meetings are part of the fabric of corporate life and if conducted well, can be incredibly useful.

In a meeting-heavy corporate culture, there are some key tips to making the most out of meetings. One useful method is using the Lean Coffee technique which helps transform staff meetings, into valuable and productive time spent. If you haven’t heard of a Lean Coffee meeting, it’s a structured, but agenda-less meeting. Because the conversations are democratically generated, discussions are more directed and productive.

Here’s some tips on how to apply it in your workplace:

Before the meeting

Before the meeting starts, lay the groundwork by gathering topics for discussion. To do this, one approach is to digitally collect topics all week long tagged in an internal collaborative app. The meeting facilitator then compiles topic suggestions prior to the meeting, moving them to a voting spreadsheet. Each meeting participant then distributes three votes across the topics they want to discuss. Thus, at the start of the meeting, everyone will know the most burning issues. How this differs from a traditional agenda is that the topics covered are democratically selected as the most pressing items – with buy-in from the majority of the group on the most urgent topics. When people agree on what needs to be accomplished, it’s easier to engage.

If your team is co-located or the meeting has a shorter lead time, you can do this with sticky notes or another voting system at the start of the meeting. But the advantage of raising issues in advance is that some of them get discussed asynchronously and are resolved before the meeting even starts.

During the meeting

Once the meeting has begun, set an amount of time for the first topic. We recommend starting with seven minutes, and then letting the discussion run. At the end of that time period, vote as a group to determine whether you should continue on the topic for three more minutes. Once a majority wants to stop, move on to the next topic. You may find that you finish discussing a topic even before the first seven minutes are up.

Why control the clock? It’s easy for one or two people continue a conversation that isn’t relevant to the larger group – these conversations can easily be taken offline, leaving the full group available to discuss burning issues. Plus, you will likely find that you work through the most burning issues quickly. If the topic of discussion is not relevant to a particular attendee, they can easily sit out and process email during that time.

Closing the meeting

Finally, we suggest closing meetings with a quick retrospective. This activity helps to identify what worked well, and what could be done better next time. There’s always room to improve, and it’s key to incorporate group feedback into the next meeting.

By using this strategy for meetings, you will be able to ensure that the majority of attendees are engaged and focused on pressing issues, that staff meetings are lively and productive, and that you are continuing to improve meetings in the future.  

The key to impacting your organisation’s meeting culture is to start!  Start with one tactic, socialise it, use it, re-use it, and then grow and improve from there!

One Response

  1. Thanks to the author for this
    Thanks to the author for this helpful post. I would not agree that all good meetings end badly. For example, after a business meeting, I am full of new information that I immediately want to apply to develop my own business. At one of these meetings with business partners, I learned about an outsourcing company that provides round-the-clock customer support. I want to start cooperation with her, because I am sure that such an approach to clients offered by this professional team will bring good results in the near future.

No Image Available
Alex Pukinskis

Lead Analyst

Read more from Alex Pukinskis

Get the latest from HRZone.

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.