Last week I ran my first lean coffee session with some testing folk across government. We had people from; DWP, UKHO, Ordnance Survey, Department for Education, Crown Commercial Service, DVSA, and me from HM Land Registry. A good mix of people to be fair.

Lean coffee is a great way to build an agenda with the attendees at the session. I trialled lean coffee table for the session, and overall, it ran smoothly. Might work for your needs too.

Quick Disclaimer

Before I go further, I do have a confession to make. This was actually my second attempt at running this event, and the first one that went ahead. The very first attempt was just me, and I learned that even for a quick experiment, giving people a week or two notice is probably best.

Me on the failed sesion 0

Fig.1 Image of Spongebob alone at a table with a cup of coffee

I’ve decided to call that failed attempt “Session 0”. So, with that footnote and the magic of zero based numbering, we can continue to talk about “Session 1”.

Why did I run the session

I am huge believer in “communities” and had a feeling that there was appetite for more cross government collaboration. Work had already been done in this area pre-covid, so I really wanted to get things moving again. You can read more on the UKHO blog.

This session let me try something that could be setup without much structure. The positive response definitely warrants a follow up to see what more we can do together. All things going well, there’ll be more posts on this theme in the coming months.

What did we talk about

After some quick introductions, to break the ice we covered some topics that brought out different views and experiences. Some looking like good topics for follow up sessions. The topics helped; build some common ground, share approaches that have worked well(or not), and have a few laughs.

Topics included:

  • exploring remote tools
  • balancing automated and manual tests
  • bad Gherkin

Our topics Fig.2 Image of topics covered from Lean Coffee Table

Of course, the conversation wasn’t without controversy. One topic threatened to end this experiment before we gained any real momentum and cause a cross government schism.


Fig.3 Image of “Tea vs Coffee “ topic from Lean Coffee Table

I’d rather not reopen any wounds. Thanks for understanding.

What did we learn?

In the simplest terms, we got to meet other people in similar roles across government and share some ideas. We’re dealing with some similar challenges, that we could focus on to share some knowledge. I’ve no doubt we’ll build on this and figure out how to work across departments a little more. It was also nice to just speak to some people from different parts of the country (and see their pets), who are really just doing their best to keep moving forward. All of which shows there is appetite for this sort of thing.

To (badly) paraphrase Alan Page:

Best way to get good ideas, is to get lots of ideas, and throw away the bad ones

I wouldn’t say we covered any bad ideas, but we have seen how we can work together for fresh perspectives, and the potential to collaborate more in future.

Watch this space for more on what we do, and learn.