So, how’s your huddle? I’ve written about huddles before and honestly believe they can be a breakthrough component in building high-performance teams. A ten minute daily meeting with your team can dramatically increase the speed of your execution, improve communication, reduce time spent in all your other meetings, align people and resources, and build relationships.
It’s easy... in theory. Everyone joins in one place, at one time, remains standing, and runs through a quick, three part agenda:
- Good News or Victory
- Top Priority for Today
- Anybody Stuck?
The goal is to keep it fast and focused - around 10 minutes for most teams. It’s ideal for everyone in your company to be involved in a huddle, and when you’re just starting out, it’s usually one company-wide huddle. But as you grow, you may experience a diminishing return. This means it’s time to cascade your huddle.
How to know it’s time to cascade your huddle (with humor):
- You doze off between your Victories and Priorities.
- You start bringing snacks or packing a lunch.
- You have to sit down to make it through your “stand up meeting.”
- You don’t recognize the faces (or voices) of everyone in the huddle.
- You can’t feed everyone in the huddle with two pizzas.
Once you know it’s time to cascade, the next question is how? How do you divide up the groups? How do you structure the sequence and timing? There are no standard answers here. The right answer is to do whatever makes the most sense for your company. Begin with the end in mind. The purpose of the huddle is to make sure everyone on the team has the most current information and is aware of changes and challenges that pop up so they can reveal roadblocks, make quick adjustments, and achieve desired results. Keep this in mind when deciding how to design your cascade structure.
How to group your huddles:
The original company level group should stay in tact. This is the group of people (usually the Executive Team) who build the company’s Quarterly Plan, attend Weekly Adjustment Meetings together, and are responsible for executing the company’s plan.
The next level of huddles should be about daily execution. It may or may not be the same as your Group Planning and Weekly Adjustment Meeting teams. Those groups are designed to identify priorities that support the company’s plan and ensure those priorities are executed during the 13-Week Race. The huddle groups are more about daily execution of the core activities of your company - building product, delivering service, taking care of customers, and maintaining a smooth operation. With this in mind, group your huddles so that the people who have information, influence, and the ability to help each other are together.
In some cases this will be by function (all customer service reps, all production managers, all sales people, or all product designers). This is a good strategy if these teams are managing resources that are shared among different business units, if the individuals are cross-trained and able to balance workloads, or if they are doing similar work and can share best practices and learn from each other.
In other cases, it makes more sense to group by location. This works well if you have teams of people who have different functional roles, but are required to work together to deliver results. This could be regional offices, store locations, service teams, or branches. The goal here is to make sure everyone on the team is aware of and focused on the top priorities for the day.
How to sequence your cascade huddles:
There could be multiple levels in your cascade structure. For example, you may have a group of Production Managers who huddle together with the Head of Operations to align around the company’s needs, then meet with their direct reports to make sure everyone is clear and aligned around where their energy should go that day.
In this example, there are actually three levels in the cascade: The Head of Operations meets with the Production Managers and with the Executive Team; the Production Managers meet with each other and with their direct reports.
Now you have to determine he right order for these teams to huddle. The answer to that question again can vary and is determined by the optimal flow of information in your company. Does it make more sense for these Production Managers to meet with their teams each morning to determine capacity and identify stucks, and then meet with each other to balance resources and make adjustments? Or, does it make more sense for the Production Managers to meet and understand each other’s needs first, then meet with their teams to direct individual efforts? Both answers could be right depending on where your challenges usually appear and how information naturally flows.
Either way you go in this example, the Head of Operations should be able to attend the Executive Team’s daily huddle with timely and accurate information to inform and align with the other leaders in the company.
Sometimes the only way to know for sure is to get started and see. You can always adjust the sequence and timing later. The victory comes in sharing information first. Fine tuning it over time is the icing on the cake.
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