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How to Have Better Team Huddles

Posted by Maggie Millard

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Sep 25, 2018 7:12:00 AM

Business meeting in front of desktop computerWe recently had a chat with a potential client in a healthcare organization that has been doing daily team huddles for years. She has been frustrated by the lack of tangible results and the apparent disinterest of her team. People show up (unless they can find any reasonable excuse not to), but it is clear that the huddle is just one thing to check off the list each day, rather than a valuable exercise. She asked how to make the practice more useful and here’s what we recommended.

Set a Firm Time Limit

Daily huddle meetings are meant to be extremely focused and quick affairs. If you have the right measurements and technology in place (more on that in a minute), 15 minutes should be sufficient. That means that everyone will need to think ahead about what is important to discuss and stick to the most relevant topics for discussion. Keeping meetings quick makes them less burdensome and allows employees to schedule their day around them.

Switch to Digital Huddle Boards

The most important piece of advice we can give is to get rid of the physical huddle board and switch to a digital solution. Moving to a digital board has many significant advantages. Everyone can join even if they aren’t in the building at the moment. Historical information about your improvement projects is collected and available. People can get information about the current state of any project before the meeting, so the meeting doesn’t just become a boring status update or a rehashing of activities. Your team will receive alerts and notifications when tasks are assigned or due. Leaders get visibility into what’s happening with every team without the need to wonder the facility looking at multiple boards. There’s really no downside. If you like having your board visible in the office, the best solutions allow you to project to a wallboard.

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Give Everyone the Chance to Run the Huddle

One way to make your huddles more interesting and to provide the opportunity for folks to expand their leadership skills is to give everyone a chance to run the huddle meeting. It is essential that everyone be an active participant in team huddles. In most teams, there are a few people who tend to be the most talkative and others that take a back seat. Rotating the role of “huddle master” is an excellent way to get everyone engaged.

Identify Road Blocks, Don’t Resolve Them

The huddle meeting is precisely the right time and place for people to bring up challenges that are impeding forward progress on projects or goals, but it isn’t the right time to resolve them. For one thing, you don’t have time, as we said, huddles are quick and focused. Another reason to avoid in-depth problem-solving in a huddle is that it is essential to understand the root-cause of obstacles or problems before suggestions for improvement are considered. During the huddle, identify the issues that need more attention and then leverage improvement techniques such as the 5-Whys, Catchball, or DMAIC to come up with the solution.

Rely on Data

One of the reasons that digital huddle boards are so useful is that they serve as a repository for data about all of your processes and a way to calculate results. Suggestions for improvement or declarations of success should all be supported by data. This makes decision making easier and helps avoid conflict.

Celebrate Achievements

While the huddle is the right place to identify challenges, you don’t want it to become focused only on the negative. Use the first minute or two to celebrate success and recognize the people who have been engaged in positive change. We think it is a good time to talk about which good news should be broadcast to the broader organization. Be sure to define success broadly. It might take the form of safety improvements, increased customer satisfaction, reduced expenses, or fewer errors.

Relate Improvement Projects to Strategic Goals

The final piece of advice we have is to ensure that what is discussed in the huddle is aligned with the overall strategic goals and objectives of the organization. This is only possible if those targets are clearly communicated by leadership and cascaded through the organization down to the individual level. While each team and department will be working on different projects, they should all have similar themes that relate to “True North.”

As they say, the devil is in the details. Just doing daily huddles won’t get you very far if they aren’t set up to be effective. These tips should help make yours more useful and engaging.

Topics: Daily Lean Management, Improvement Process, Visual Management

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