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Enhancing Transparency and Driving Improvement with a Team Huddle

What do you do when your team has a lot of great ideas to improve their work? How do you organize those ideas? How do you keep team members and stakeholders motivated and up-to-date with the progress and implementation of these innovations?

The City of San Diego's Personnel Department was collecting ideas to improve their hiring process, tracking them on a spreadsheet, and reporting out on the status of these projects on an as-needed basis. Sounds pretty good, right? But this method lacked ease and accessibility, and the team wanted more transparency and ways to foster teamwork to move their ideas forward.

Team Huddle enters the chat!

Left: Eva Sanchez with the team's new Huddle Board; Right: The SD Personnel Department's Huddle Board

Partners in Public Innovation (PPI) worked with the City of San Diego Personnel Department to kick off their Team Huddle in mid-May. Our goal was to take their existing and new improvement ideas and make them more visible to the whole team and help to build teamwork and accountability to move their ideas forward. A Team Huddle provides regular updates and transparency on progress towards department goals, and it also helps to encourage camaraderie and cross-collaboration among staff in different sections. Agencies use these short team meetings (usually around 15 minutes per huddle) to practice regular communication and cultivate a culture of continuous improvement; it helps them become better problem solvers and build a metric-mindset.

Eva Sanchez, Deputy Personnel Director, who leads the weekly Team Huddle shares, "the huddles remind me that we need to continuously communicate, share improvement ideas, and wins for our department. We may all be working on improving processes for our own sections that will benefit the department and our customers, but not everyone may know about these efforts. And the huddles help facilitate these efforts."

A really important aspect of a Team Huddle is to make it your goal and your progress visual. Using a visual management tool like a Board, and in this case a "Huddle Board," allows everyone--even brand new staff-- to quickly get on the same page about what the goal is and what the team's collective progress is towards achieving the goal. Huddle Boards vary in composition, but they typically include common elements such as key performance indicators (KPIs), strategic goals, new improvement ideas, and improvement projects in progress.

Quick Wins, Big Outcomes

Once the San Diego Personnel team started using a Team Huddle (with a Huddle Board), they immediately felt the difference. Let's look at an example of one of their improvement ideas:

Streamlining the Conviction Record Form Step

Brenzell Gonzalez and Rebecca Morales, staff in the department's Certifications section, submitted an improvement idea to improve a step in their hiring process--completing the Conviction Record form for each new hire. This step required a staff member to watch new hires copy a statement word-for-word, review it for accuracy, and finally initial the form to confirm that the form was completed correctly and accurately. Many times, new hires would need to complete the form up to three times because they made an error copying the statement! The added time to re-do the form would often also cause new hires to miss or run late to their fingerprinting appointment, the next step in the hiring process.

They estimated that each time they met with a new hire to complete the Conviction Record form, it took roughly 8 minutes to complete; and they had to do this about 20 times each day. All told, they were spending more than 13 hours each week on this step alone!

Propelling Improvement Forward

Brenzell and Rebecca used a very simple tool--an Improvement Idea form (below)-- to capture the problem they wanted to solve, explain why they thought it was happening, describe the idea they had to improve it, and estimate the impact they thought their improvement would have on their overall goal (to improve their hiring process). They put the completed Improvement Idea form on their Huddle Board and explained to the rest of their team during their Team Huddle the problem and what they wanted to do to improve the Conviction Record step.

Left: Improvement Opportunity form; Right: Improvement Opportunity idea submitted by Certifications team members, Brenzell and Rebecca

With their team's support, Brenzell took on the idea. She evaluated how to error-proof the step so that new hires could easily, and on the first shot, complete it without staff assistance. Instead of asking new hires to transcribe a statement word-for-word, she redesigned the form so that they could read the statement and just check a box to affirm their understanding instead. The form could now be completed with ease, more efficiently, and virtually error-free!

Top: Previous Form; Bottom: Revised Form

One Idea Equals Hours in Savings

With this one, simple innovation, the Conviction Record step no longer requires tons of staff time. The time savings total about 1/3 of a full-time employee (Payroll Audit Specialist II) for the Personnel Department! The improvement also helps the next step in the hiring process to stay on schedule and frees up staff time to do more meaningful work.

Rather than letting the idea languish in an excel form, they brought it to life through the improvement idea. Their Team Huddle provided a platform and simple tools for staff to share their ideas, work together with colleagues, and commemorate achievements. Since the implementation of the Huddle, the Personnel Department has completed 7 new improvement ideas and experienced enhanced transparency, improved accountability, better collaboration, and more efficient problem solving. It's been amazing to see what this team has accomplished in just two months!

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