Implementing a morning stand-up huddle can be a valuable tool for enhancing communication, improving productivity, and fostering collaboration within a team. However, to ensure that a daily meeting is effective, it is essential to employ appropriate strategies. By incorporating the following ten strategies, team members can make the most out of their morning stand-up huddles and maximize their potential benefits.
To illustrate how organizations can implement these 10 strategies, we explore a case study published in Harvard Business Review that showcases how Intermountain Healthcare utilized huddles to create focus and alignment across 23 hospitals, 170 clinics, and an 850K member health insurance plan.
Best practices when implementing daily huddles
Keep the huddle equal to, or less than, 15 minutes.
Have each team member share a brief update on their progress and any challenges.
Encourage attendees to be concise and to-the-point, and avoid lengthy discussions.
Focus on actions and outcomes, rather than just discussing tasks and activities.
Encourage team members to ask for help or support, and provide assistance as needed.
During the huddle, identify and address obstacles that are preventing progress.
Encourage open and honest communication in a positive and supportive manner.
Use time to create alignment on priorities, goals, and objectives.
Use visual aids to help team members share their updates and facilitate discussion.
Follow-up on action items or decisions made during the huddle, and track progress.
Case study: Intermountain Healthcare
In a Harvard Business Review study, researchers explored how Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare has used 15-minute daily huddles to align 23 hospitals, 170 clinics, and an 850K member health insurance plan.
The model employed by Intermountain Healthcare offers a unique and informative perspective on the use of daily meetings. This approach shares similarities with the "teams of teams" approach used in the popular agile operating method and has been successfully implemented in various industries. However, the impressive scale at which Intermountain Healthcare operates makes it particularly noteworthy and insightful.
In short, Intermountain Healthcare has effectively utilized the huddle structure outlined below to facilitate the escalation of knowledge from various activities across the organization in the preceding 24 hours, ultimately enabling executive leadership to address any pertinent issues quickly and effectively.
To ensure efficiency, these huddles adhere to a strict structure that clearly defines roles and responsibilities, and utilizes pre-prepared information to ensure effectiveness. They are centered around four fundamentals aimed at achieving Intermountain Healthcare's objective of providing the best possible care. Across those fundamentals, eight key topics are reported on a daily basis. The huddle structure involves multiple tiers of reporting and discussion, beginning with care teams and managers who draft a report based on the eight key topics.
8:45AM: care teams and managers gather in 1.5K+ Tier I huddles to draft a report.
9:00AM: reports are considered in ~170 Tier II huddles of directors.
9:15AM: reports are considered in Tier III huddles of admins and geographical groups.
9:30AM: reports are considered in Tier IV huddles of affinity hospital groups.
9:45AM: reports escalate to Tier V, consisting of hospitals and community-based care.
10AM: reports of vital information are considered in Tier VI, consisting of executive leadership.
At each tier of the huddle structure, the needs that can be addressed at that level are resolved, while any remaining ones are escalated up to the next tier. As information flows up from 8:45-10AM, it then flows down to follow-up on any previous reports or actions. One important feature of this process is the tracking of every action that flows through each tier. This allows participants to see the value of their input and to maintain clarity, alignment, and accountability within the organization. Overall, this huddle structure enables Intermountain Healthcare to effectively manage and address issues at all levels of the organization.
To ensure long-term effectiveness, a "Continuous Improvement Team" monitors the huddle process on a quarterly basis with the goal of cultivating a culture of continuous improvement.
In the first year of operation (which launched April 2017), this model addressed an extensive range of issues: “At the Tier VI level alone, 365 unique issues were tackled, resulting in 22 systemwide safety alerts to our caregivers, organizational awareness of 15 pharmaceutical and supply shortages, rapid communication for potential formulary alternatives when supplies become limited, and better facilitation of patient transfers within the system. We also recognized and closed gaps in training on new equipment, replacement parts, new products, and instructional manuals, allowing the system to implement swift training for our caregivers.”
The main takeaway
To maximize the effectiveness of huddles, it is not necessary to have everyone in attendance. Instead, it is important to ensure that the appropriate individuals are present, adequately prepared, and that the meeting has a clear agenda and set time limit. This helps to maintain a productive and focused discussion, while avoiding unnecessary delays. Additionally, implementing a structured format and assigning specific roles and responsibilities to participants can enhance the efficiency of a huddle even further.
Sorensen, Severin. (2022). Next 10: Coach Wisdom for Entrepreneurs, Business Owners, and CEOs Wondering What Moves to Make Next.
Harrison, M. (2018). How a U.S. Health Care System Uses 15-Minute Huddles to Keep 23 Hospitals Aligned. https://hbr.org/2018/11/how-a-u-s-health-care-system-uses-15-minute-huddles-to-keep-23-hospitals-aligned.
In this article, we delve into the “10 strategies to make your morning stand up huddle most effective” chapter found in Next 10: Coach Wisdom for Entrepreneurs, Business Owners, and CEOs Wondering What Moves to Make Next, a book written by the Host and Curator of Arete Coach Podcast, Severin Sorensen, with contributions from Amelia Chatterley.
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