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  • Writer's picturePaul DeChant MD, MBA

Leadership Team Huddles

One More Time...

Our world has changed and will never go back to being the same as it was. A major crisis like the Corona virus pandemic is challenging healthcare providers like no other time in history. The pace of change is breathtaking.

AND, there is hope that we are starting to see leveling of cases and demand on EDs and ICUs, while outpatient practices are beginning to open up more for elective care. Physicians and patients are adapting to telemedicine visits.

It's becoming clear that the financial challenges wrought by COVID-19 will continue to impact our organizations in the near, mid-, and long term future.

We must be ready to rapidly adapt in this VUCA environment of

  • Volatility

  • Uncertainty

  • Complexity, and

  • Ambiguity

Leadership Team Huddles Empower Adaptability

Remember, according to Darwin the key to survival is the ability to adapt to a changing environment. In a VUCA environment, adaptability provides your strongest strategic advantage. When things change daily, a daily huddle is vitally important to keep up with the pace of change.

Two weeks ago I published a blog post about executive huddles, explaining their benefits:

  • 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

As a reminder, here are the key factors for success.

Leadership huddles should:

  • Be done as an online meeting 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

Challenges Getting Started

Leading any change, even one as seemingly simple and straightforward as starting a daily huddle with your team, is challenging.

Some key issues:

  • Make sure people are set up for success. Introduce your plan for huddles in a regularly scheduled meeting. Provide a template agenda. Ensure any technology issues are addressed.

  • Be clear about your expectations of your team. The huddles work well if everyone attends and the huddle is at least 4 days a week. You will hear objections such as meeting daily is "too often", there won't be enough to talk about, or the times don't work in everyone's schedule.

  • Ask for input on the process. When people have a say in the process, when they see the initial proposal modify to include their recommendations, they start to own the process and support its success.

You must decide what you will compromise on, and what you will not. People need to know where there are "guard rails" in place, and will work within them.

For example, you may hold the huddle 4 days as week, in the morning on two days and just after lunch the other two days to accommodate schedules. If you team is large, perhaps half the team get the floor for on Monday and Wednesday, the other half on Tuesday and Thursday. And once you've been at it for a month, it will become clear that you can experiment with other adjustments.

On the other hand, if people don't attend regularly, be careful. You know the management tenet, "What you permit, you promote." If people don't show up, others will wonder why they have to, particularly as you are getting started and the team has yet to realize the full benefit of the process. You risk failure if you allow the attendance to drift in the early days.

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 you're trying it but finding challenges, 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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