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Mastering Daily Huddles: Your Comprehensive Team Playbook

Do you have daily huddles, check-ins or stand-ups? Whatever you want to call them, usually, we see tech teams are willing and happy to get involved, but more often than not, it is our clients who resist.

Clients will challenge huddles with “Argh, I’ve got enough meetings already; I don’t need anything else” and “What could possibly change every day?” but these are the same people who say they have too much email, too much to do and I’m in too many meetings.

I don’t believe anyone who’s done it properly has ever not got a 10x return.

    Why you need to try again…

    The effort around daily huddles (or stand-ups) can ebb and flow, and poorly attended or time-consuming huddles filled with too many topics can feel like a good reason not to continue with them.

    Daily huddles cause a divide in opinion. Whether you love them or hate them is likely a direct reflection of whether you’re using this time correctly. When executed with thought, a quickfire daily catch-up should be valuable for the whole team, and if it’s not, then you’re not huddling; you’re having meetings. Make it punchy!

    Whether your arena is a football field or a corporate boardroom, the concept of huddling holds tremendous power. It’s a moment when a company demonstrates true psychological safety. Heads come together; people can ask for help where they’re stuck, aligning focus, discussing tactics, and recalibrating if necessary.

    Without psychological safety (if you’re interested in this term, I highly recommend giving this podcast episode a listen), it’ll be a repeat of Ford when Alan Mulally went in. For the first few weeks, every time he went into a meeting, he was told the company was succeeding. Spoiler alert, but that turned out to be the furthest thing from the truth. It took one guy admitting that the project he was working on was, in fact, going down the pan, and Mulally gave him a standing ovation for having the confidence to be honest. It reminds me that at Pier 1 we had “C**k up of the Month” to drive a culture of celebrating failure and learning from it. You can hear that conversation on the Bizpedia podcast, which was a fab episode for those who have yet to catch up on it.

    When we’re working with clients who are in any sort of crisis, they immediately go from monthly and weekly to weekly and daily because it changes the pace and sets a rhythm.

    In this comprehensive playbook, we’ll delve into winning strategies for running a daily huddle—a brief yet impactful, 15-minute session that can significantly enhance teamwork and efficiency within your team.

    8 steps to maximise your huddle time:

    1. Avoid overwhelm:

    Attempting to cover too much ground within the limited timeframe of a daily huddle can lead to inefficiencies. Focus on building a rhythmic pattern and shared focus rather than delving into every minor detail. Quick issue triage is key, and I would recommend that you take the more detailed discussions offline after the meeting and only involve active contributors.

    2. Start the day right:

    The optimal time for a daily huddle is right at the beginning of the day. Doing this ensures that the team kicks off the day with a shared focus. Asynchronous huddles can be a viable solution for remote teams dealing with different time zones.

    3. Stick to the agenda:

    With only 15 minutes to spare, a clear and consistent agenda becomes crucial. We use a tool called Metronome Growth Software (MGS) which allows you to create your agenda in advance, so regardless of whether you’re there makes the entire process slicker. Getting into a routine of preparation means less umm-ing and ahh-ing during your huddle. Following the same daily format helps create a second-nature practice, making the huddle more efficient and effective. 

    4. Unify project updates:

    Avoid conducting separate huddles for each internal project, which can lead to a barrage of back-to-back meetings. Instead, aim to cover most of the team’s projects in a single huddle. Consider transitioning to an asynchronous format if the team grows too large for this approach.

    5. Punctuality matters:

    Start and end the huddle on time; even if there are team members who haven’t joined, that’s tough luck. Use a timer to instil a sense of urgency and establish a disciplined rhythm. Pandering to lateness sets a tone that lateness is forgivable.

    6. Maintain an upbeat tempo:

    Engagement and collaboration are the cornerstones of effective daily huddles. Kick off the meeting with a fast team-building question to stimulate dialogue. Additionally, incorporate moments to celebrate successes, even minor wins. The whole point is to drive productivity, so now is not the time for doom and gloom.

    7. Leverage tools for efficiency:

    Use tools for meeting management. Whatever works best for your business. There are plenty of options available which help to facilitate real-time agenda management and timers for each agenda item, ensuring that every second of the meeting is being used effectively.

    8. Consistency is key:

    Establishing a daily cadence for huddles is crucial. This consistent rhythm allows teams to identify issues, address blockers, and maintain accountability. Incorporating daily goal tracking into the huddle reinforces a sense of purpose and progress.

    The people involved in your huddle are responsible for making it great. Consistently seek and encourage feedback; if there are ways in which your team feel this time can be improved, then keep adjusting to make it work for the team.

    This is also an opportunity for individuals to prove they’re not just being a “busy idiot”; if a role is reasonably repetitive, then focus on what the contribution was yesterday and to what value. Find trackable metrics to give purpose and, rather than looking at input, actually talk about output and impact.

    So, with all these points in mind, let’s summarise how your huddle could and should look if you’re maximising this time to its full potential.

    Your daily huddle agenda:

    Check-in (2 minutes):

    – Assess the team’s well-being with a quick red/yellow/green status. Alternatively, you could also ask for a score out of 10, with 0 being very unhappy/stressed/overwhelmed and 10 being Very happy, on top of the workload and thriving.

    Tip: Enhance engagement by alternating with team-building questions.

    Focus areas (3 minutes):

    – Share key focuses for the next 24 hours. For small teams, each person can answer in just a few words; for larger teams, just one person can briefly summarise their team’s current project.

    Tip: Keep it high-level, focusing on current activities, meetings, and decisions.

    Metrics + Wins (5 minutes):

    – Review progress toward product metrics and celebrate wins.

    Tip: Preparing metrics ahead of time streamlines the discussion.

    Problem-solving (5 minutes):

    – Address blockers and share where individuals are encountering challenges. Problem-solving is where the conversation could go off-piste; aim for bullet points and encourage separate discussions after the huddle to seek resolutions.

    Tip: Foster an open communication environment by addressing your blockers upfront.

    Is a daily huddle different from a daily standup?

    While the terms are often used interchangeably, both daily huddles and daily standups serve the same purpose—quick updates and problem-solving. Daily huddles often include a brief check-in around product metrics. I would recommend keeping track of topics, projects and blockers so that you can continuously move forward without the same items arising each day, as that will have everyone losing interest and nodding off.

    Time is valuable; ensure it’s working for you and the team!

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    Written by business coach and CEO mentor Dominic Monkhouse, read more of his work here. Read his new book, Mind Your F**king Business here.

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