How Daily Huddles Produce Winning Outcomes
In a November 2018 Harvard Business Review article, Intermountain Healthcare CEO Marc Harrison detailed how his company uses a system of daily 15-minute “huddles” to quickly identify and resolve issues. Stratified into six tiers from hospital care teams to the C-suite, Intermountain staff gather each morning in more than 2,500 huddles that start at staggered intervals.
At 8:45 A.M., care teams and hospital and clinic managers on the lowest of Intermountain’s six organizational tiers huddle to address serious safety issues, caregiver injuries, and equipment malfunctions. A daily metrics report and any unresolved issues are then escalated to the next tier in the organization, consisting of hospital and clinic directors, who huddle at 9 A.M. Huddles continue at 15-minute intervals until Intermountain’s executive leadership, including the CEO and direct reports, meets at 10 A.M. Huddles allow outstanding issues that have arisen in the previous 24 hours to move up the chain of command until they reach a level in which they can be resolved.
Through the tiers
Each huddle has a leader and a data recorder who tracks assigned action items. Issues remain on the agenda until follow-up has been completed and outcomes have been reported back through all tiers of the organization. Harrison reported that in the first year of use, the huddles led to 22 systemwide safety alerts and the prompt identification of a Hepatitis B outbreak that allowed Intermountain to have sufficient staff and medicine on hand.
Getting in tune
Although Intermountain’s size dwarfs that of the typical AEC firm, its huddle approach could be adaptable to companies of all sizes. For Intermountain, the system has fostered greater responsibility and accountability among staff as well as the alignment of goals, resources, and people. The huddles quickly put the company’s leadership in tune with difficulties being faced on the front lines and allows next-generation leaders to gain a greater understanding of how the executive suite resolves issues. Harrison wrote that accountability is vital to the huddle system’s success and that it must be tied to an organization’s overall strategy and performance goals.
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