Huddle boards, along with quick daily huddle meetings are popular continuous improvement techniques. They are particularly prevalent in health care organizations but can be used by companies in any industry. The purpose of the huddle board is to provide a method of visual management and involve all employees in the effort to create positive change.
We’ve had the chance to chat with many people who have introduced huddle boards with varying degrees of success. These conversations have revealed a few best practices and mistakes to avoid. Here are our top three tips for successful huddle boards and meetings.
Don’t Jump at Solutions
Daily huddles are great for checking in on improvement work, but one mistake we see frequently is that teams assume that decisions on how to address opportunities for improvement should be made during the huddle. This can result in prescribing solutions to problems without the proper due diligence needed to understand the root cause. Instead, the huddle meeting should be used to assign ownership and report progress. It should not short-circuit an improvement cycle such as PDSA or DMAIC.
Don’t Lose Sight of True North
Huddle boards and meetings are where the rubber meets the road in terms of continuous improvement. Front line employees get the opportunity to discuss the challenges of the day, which is critical for improvement culture. However, it is very easy for staff to focus on issues that are problematic for them at the moment, but not necessarily aligned with the strategic objectives of the organization. When resources and time are limited and priorities must be established, it is important to align them with the organization’s goals set during strategy deployment or Hoshin planning.
Do Make Your Huddle Boards Digital
Physical huddle boards have some significant limitations. They make it difficult for remote or traveling team members to participate in huddle meetings and improvement work. There is no way to roll them up in a way that makes it easy for executive leadership to track the health of improvement throughout the organization. In addition, due to space limits, once an improvement is complete, it must be removed from the board, making it difficult to learn from past work.
The solution to all of these (and many other) drawbacks of physical boards is using software instead. Electronic visual management solutions allow anyone to access the board from anywhere, at any time. They serve as a repository of knowledge by preserving the details of each improvement project and they make it easy for executives to recognize and reward the work of each team.
Any attempt at continuous improvement is to be applauded. One thing we always seem to come back to, however, is that improvement processes should occasionally be held up to a mirror. It makes for a funny sentence, but from time to time, it makes sense to ask, “Could we improve improvement?” If you are using huddle boards, these suggestions may help you do exactly that.