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How front-line huddles elicit innovation and embed a culture of continuous improvement

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

It’s that time of the year – new beginnings, new resolutions, new strategic initiatives to set our teams up for what we want to accomplish for the year. Whether your team is just starting on their continuous improvement journey, or you're looking for ways to make a culture shift from static improvements to iterative improvement, huddles are a great tool to leverage.

What's a huddle?

Huddles are a form of a daily management system to help empower teams to think about strategic improvements on a regular basis. At a 10-minute daily or weekly stand-up meeting guided by a visual management board (aka “huddle board”), the team discusses, prioritizes, and plans to execute improvement ideas to move the needle on department or division-wide strategic goals. It’s a great space to hold your team accountable for developing and executing ideas, and to be able to see at a glance the progress made on improvement goals!

Here at Partners in Public Innovation (PPI), we use weekly huddles as part of our own work - in order to ensure our team is engaged on our strategies and practicing what we preach! We also implement huddles in our partnerships to help build habits, and emphasize that no idea is too small to make an impact. The practice of huddles is also helpful for identifying any obstacles getting in the way of execution, so that the work doesn't get stuck and folks can step in to help when needed.

Huddles are useful and important in any field of work - from the office, to the trades maintaining our infrastructure, to hospitals and healthcare - we've seen firsthand how impactful the act of coming together for a short check-in can make a difference in achieving strategic goals. Like most may experience, meeting fatigue can be a real hinderance to executing necessary tasks. However, opting for quick check-ins--with a structured approach and a straightforward method to identifying where the work is currently, what's getting in the way, and where we have room to pick up--enhances the team's ability to ensure the work flows and remains aligned to the overall strategic goals.

Huddles have been a centerpiece of our approach to process improvement since our initial development of the San Francisco Lean Program, including helping the Public Utilities Commission reduce time-to-hire by over two months.

We also helped the Health Service System (HSS) implement a problem-solving daily management system to discuss how to better resolve member issues through rapid “Just Do It” (JDI) improvement ideas. After a few months of implementation, the Member Services supervisor shared with the Lean Team how she and her team welcomed the continuous improvement methodology to build a culture of iterative change:

On the challenges of starting a new huddle:

"Implementing a daily management system was a major transition, so I knew I would have to reinforce the huddle by rounding up the team each morning... The shift in enthusiasm really happened two months after starting daily huddles. We’re not fully there, but the team is more eager to implement change through the Lean method... The plan is for all staff to facilitate huddles, both as a way of reinforcing the huddle and to develop their presentation skills."

On overcoming obstacles to innovation:

"There are always going to be those who are attached to how things are currently done. Coming up with ideas is one thing, but thinking about it from end to end

is another, as you must anticipate whether the idea is fixing one thing but breaking another. By creating a space where you’re encouraging a methodological approach to problem solving and emphasizing the yield of process improvement, it helps those who are resistant and apathetic to change."

Advice for others considering a daily management system:

"If you decide to start a daily management system, realize that you must be really committed to it. You will likely encounter frustration by your team and be frustrated when starting but understand that’s part of the process. Make sure to make it real for your staff – if you’re not bought into it, they won’t be either. Lastly, remembering why we are here – to serve our members – helps keep it all in perspective."

Interested in starting your own huddle?

Download our free huddle reference guide

PPI - Huddle Reference Guide
Download PDF • 796KB

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