Today's Challenge: Team Huddles

Most sports teams have huddles. These huddles may be formal or informal, sometimes they are during the action and at other times, they are in between plays. There is a little known, and less often practiced, discipline among many successful organizations: team huddles. Today’s Challenge question: How do I make my team huddles add value?
First, what is a team huddle? A very short meeting designed specifically to impact attitudes and actions.
There are fundamentally two types of huddles, planned and unplanned. Each has its own unique contribution to an organization. Let’s take a quick look at each…
Planned Huddles are used as strategic communications platforms. In these meetings, priorities are clarified, values reinforced and behavior reinforced. The best example of this I know comes from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel chain. Before every shift, each team member joins a 5-minute huddle. In these meetings the team is focused and encouraged and a pre-determined value is stressed. These huddles provide clarity and alignment. Horst Schultze, the former president of the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain is a huge fan of huddles. He told me, “ Your organization will never realize its full potential until you master team huddles.”
Unplanned Huddles can also be very powerful. These meetings are not pre-planned or scheduled. A team member, or a leader can call this type of huddle, when there is a problem to be solved or prevented. These meetings are spontaneous. Often these meetings are called when a plan is not coming together; or when something unexpected occurs. These huddles are often intended to redirect or respond to a situation. In the world of basketball, a time out called by a coach to stem the tide of momentum, is a good example. The coach is trying to help the team understand how to respond differently to achieve a different outcome.
Regarding the specific question: How can I make huddles add more value? Here are a few tips…

  • For planned huddles, be sure you have a pre-determined focus. Focus is the key word. What one or two items do you want to discuss?
  • Keep huddles short. I don’t think there is a magic number of minutes, but the right answer is probably closer to five minutes than it is to ten.
  • Do them often. A monthly huddle will have little effect. A weekly or daily huddle creates enough frequency to establish intent and discipline.
  • Use huddles to honor people, and reinforce your values. What is recognized will be repeated. Be thoughtful in this arena and you can drive any behavior you desire in your organization.
  • Most organizations under celebrate accomplishments. Huddles are a great venue to acknowledge wins and milestones. Don’t miss these opportunities!
  • If you want your huddles to drive a specific action, be specific. Vague instructions yield uncertain outcomes. A quick reminder of a requirement or expectation can increase your chances of compliance significantly.
  • Don’t hesitate to call an unscheduled huddle. Unlike a coach, you are not limited to how many times you can pull your team together for a quick adjustment.
  • Be creative. I know several organizations that conduct planned huddles using iPad technology. A daily huddle message is recorded and everyone views it when they begin their shift.

I’ve never seen an organization that cannot benefit from frequent huddles, planned and unplanned. Experiment. Find what works for you. I am confident huddles will help you take your organization to the next level.[GLS_Shield]
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