The idea of a “daily huddle” is quite well known in Australia courtesy of the writings and conferences of Verne Harnish. The goal of this article is to explain what the daily huddle is and help you answer the question are daily huddles right for your firm?
Verne Harnish writes about daily huddles in his books Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up. Here is a summary of what he says in the first book:
- Absolutely everybody in a growing company should be in some kind of five to 15 minute huddle daily. I don’t mean they all have to be in the same meeting, just in some meeting. To me, this is non-negotiable.
- Casual encounters fail to take advantage of the three most powerful tools a leader has in getting team performance: peer pressure, collective intelligence, and clear communication.
- I recommend that companies set the time a little irregularly – every day at 8:08 am, for example, or every day at 4:46pm.
- Make on-time attendance mandatory, with no excuses!
- Overall, start and end on time and don’t problem solve. This meeting is simply for problem identification. And if it starts to go longer than 15 minutes, people will drop the habit.
- Stand up, or perch on stools.
- The agenda should be the same structure every day, and it’s just three items long: what’s up, daily measures, and where are you stuck?
Here is a summary of what he says in the second:
- The Daily Huddle. A 5 to 15 minute meeting to discuss tactical issues and provide updates. Helps you avoid minor train wrecks and take advantage of unforeseen opportunities. Normally a daily huddle saves everyone an hour or so of needless email updates and ad hoc interruptions. Issues that emerge drive the main topics for the daily meeting.
- Needs to include specifics when team members speak – names, numbers, dates, issues and concerns (not meeting with a client, meeting with XYZ client).
- Start at an odd time like 9.07 and start on time. Stand up or perch on stools to help keep it short.
- Each team member is in one daily huddle and management in two.
- Pick someone who is naturally structured and disciplined to run them.
- Agenda is
- What’s up? (In the next 24 hours, what’s on today)
Key activities, meetings, decisions but not a minute by minute diary read.
- What are the daily metrics?
Verbalising the daily metrics that the company monitors
- Where are you stuck
Most important item – constraints and concerns that could stop them having a great next 24 hours Don’t let descend into problem solving. Some things will need to be taken “offline”.
Verne warns against checking up on whether a person did something the previous day. If you do it will feel like micromanaging. For the most part look forward.
Applying in Practice
I have worked in a business that adopted the daily huddle routine. We had one for the whole team of about 20 people and one for the management team of 5 people. I’ve also observed huddles inside accounting firms. Here are my observations and tips:
- I believe in the concept and think it is a really good element of the communication which is so important in every business. The meetings will also help with immediate workflow and accountability.
- It will feel weird when you start and there will be some who consider it a waste of time. Stick with it and work with those people to get them onboard.
- If you are clear about why you are holding the meeting that should help get people onboard
- It could take weeks or even a month or two before you truly find your rhythm with the meetings
- Some firms rotate leadership of the huddle and some just have one organised person do it. I am comfortable either way but whoever leads does need to be adept at keeping things moving. People will try to problem solve in the meeting, but it is designed to identify the problem not solve it. What should naturally happen is lots of problem solving straight after the meeting for those who need to be involved in each one identified.
- If you have more than about 15 to 20 people in the firm break the meeting into groups of no more than that. It is too long a meeting above that number of people in my view. Most firms of that size will have some natural way to split the group.
- Having people working in different locations, including on other countries, is not an excuse to exclude. Everyone is included. We’ve all had lots of practice now courtesy of the Coronavirus so we know how to do it.
- Adopt a zero tolerance approach for non-attendance or turning up late. This is not acceptable and disrespectful of team mates.
- The daily metric component of the agenda is often interpreted as each person being clear on the most important thing they have to get done that day. I’m ok with that but I do think that you can identify one or two firm or team wide metrics to be reporting. I watched a huddle in one business where they shared sales for the previous day plus customer complaints and hiccups. Daily reporting requires good systems to be capturing the data for the measures that are important to you. Some of these for your firm might include fees issued, cash collected, jobs completed or chargeable hours worked.
Does this replace our “workflow” meeting?
Short answer no. The daily meeting will help workflow but I don’t believe it can fully replace longer term planning necessary for smooth workflow.
In some firms I do however see that four days a week they follow the daily routine and then on the fifth (often a Monday) they have a longer workflow meeting. The one concern I have about this is that having everyone involved in detailed workflow can become tedious and perhaps not the best use of each person’s time. So think carefully before adopting this 4day/1day pattern. A better approach may be to have the daily meeting five days per week and the have the workflow meeting weekly with only those who are involved in your process.
If you are not consciously managing workflow then it is time to change your ways. I’ll write about that in more detail in another article.
Give it a go!
Starting up daily huddles in a firm can be quite confronting and feel weird. I believe however that once you get into your daily rhythm with them they are in important part of your communication package, help lubricate workflow, maintain focus on what is important and add an element of accountability for each team member. Give it a go!
If you want help with the implementation of daily huddles or other ways to manage your team and your firm, I’ll be pleased to assist. [email protected]