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  • Writer's picturePaul DeChant MD, MBA

Executive Huddles - A Key Learning From COVID-19 Crisis Management

Has your organization changed radically in the last two months? I doubt anyone would answer "no". The more important questions are:

  • How has your organization changed?

  • What are you learning from the changes?

  • As things return toward normal, what will you keep of what you have learned?

I said return toward normal because we will never return to the way things were before - how we individually feel, how we connect with others, and how our organizations function. 

In response to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, many healthcare systems have gone to once or twice daily organization-wide incident command meetings. These are attended by everyone at a specific management level and above, starting at either the manager or director level.

Health system leaders who haven't done meetings like this before tell me that they are amazed at how quickly concerns are communicated and problems are solved. Issues that used to require months to resolve are settled in a matter of hours or days.

This is great. This is the pace at which successful organizations should solve problems even in non-crisis mode. To paraphrase Darwin - the key to survival isn't physical strength or intellectual prowess, it's the ability to rapidly adapt to a changing environment.

Solving problems quickly is the key to rapidly adapting to change

Wouldn't it be wonderful, once the crisis subsides, to be able to solve "routine" problems with the same speed you are currently solving crisis-related problems?

Einstein's definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Don't go back to the way things were before if you want to maintain the improvements you've realized.

You won't need twice daily incident command meetings once the crisis subsides. But you can keep your new-found rapid problem solving with a modified incident command meeting - a daily executive huddle.

A daily huddle of the C-level executive team, or the team you lead at whatever level you are in your organization, will ensure rapid problem solving.

The higher up in the organization the huddles happen, the more rapidly adaptable your organization will be. In other words, the more likely your organization will not only survive, but it will thrive and outperform your competition.

How to Hold Executive Huddles

I recommend executive huddles:

  • Be done as a Zoom or conference call if everyone is not in the same location - we've all learned how to do these now and it saves travel time

  • Take place four or five days a week, not on the day you hold your weekly meeting - you will likely find the weekly meeting is shorter and more focused.

  • Last only 15 minutes. It will be a challenge at first, but the team can learn how to do this one of two ways: 1) Starting with 30 minutes and reducing 5 minutes each week, or 2) Start with only 15 minutes, stop the huddle at 15 minutes no matter what, and you’ll gradually learn to keep to the time frame.

  • Start precisely on time, the same time each day

  • Have three components: 1) A minute to honor someone for a personal or work-related success. We all appreciate recognition. 2) 10 minutes for round table where each team member gives a one-minute update, or passes if there is nothing new to report. If there are problems that require some discussion, take them off line among only the stakeholders who are involved in the issue, and 3) 5 minutes on metrics - reviewing one metric each day for KPIs that you team is responsible for

What others have discovered with Executive Huddles

A number of side benefits result from this approach

  • First and best of all - email volume drops by 30% - all those emails between team members are eliminated as you can quickly discuss an issue during or after the huddle. This alone will make the huddles worthwhile.

  • Second - problems are solved more effectively and efficiently, sharing solutions across the team

  • Third - relationships improve between team members as they connect more frequently and feel more comfortable asking for and giving help

  • Fourth - huddles will spread organically as team members realize the benefits, they will hold huddles with their own direct reports

Still not sure how to proceed? I'm happy to help

If this sounds intriguing, but you're not quite sure how to start daily executive huddles, or transition from incident command meetings to daily executive huddles, I'm happy to help. You can schedule a call on the book online page of my website.

Don't hesitate to get started. Daily executive huddles are an important step in advancing organizational well-being.


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