This is the Team Activity That May Fuel Agility

Huddling on the field is a common way for athletes to regroup and quickly reassess their gameplay strategies–so can the same hold true for the workplace?

The concept of team huddles in the workplace isn’t new, but it is one that could use some added attention, given the increasing need for agile workplaces–which experts say will be built on teamwork and rapid decision-making. Workplace huddles typically allow employees to circumvent lengthy weekly meetings, instead offering quick, energized daily check-ins with a team on goals and other pertinent information.

While huddles have long been tapped in retail and other customer-facing settings, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review highlighted the scale to which the concept can be applied–which is important given the increasingly globally connected workforce.

Intermountain Healthcare, a Salt Lake City-based network of 23 hospitals and 170 clinics, utilizes 15-minute daily huddles across all of its operations every morning–more than 2,500 in total. The huddles span all job families and levels, including executive leadership. While team huddles sound informal, Intermountain takes a very structured approach: Each huddle has a leader, designated participants, a prepared chart of topics and someone who records the information. Areas of discussion are centered on four “fundamentals of care” and include safety, quality, access and “stewardship of resources,” and can cover topics such as caregiver injuries, stats on mechanical-equipment failures or real-life safety incidents. Huddle leaders are encouraged to solicit information about ongoing issues or daily metrics to report back to management. The communication goes both ways, as all huddle participants are given access to reports of the meetings and about each follow-up step that emerges.

According to the HBR article, the program, which launched in spring 2017, saw 365 unique issues resolved in its first year, which led to results such as 22 systemwide safety alerts. The huddles also helped leaders close gaps in training and even identify early development of disease outbreaks. From an HR lens, the strategy has helped the organization improve staffing procedures and reduce service interruptions, Intermountain CEO Dr. Marc Harrison wrote in HBR.

Harrison identified three key lessons that have merged from the approach that could help other organizations considering using team huddles in the workplace:

  1. Focus on trends: Issues that have been escalated up from the huddles are tracked and analyzed each quarter to spot and address trends.
  2. Accountability is vital: Intermountain executive leadership keeps employees informed of every action taken as a result of the huddles, including assigned time frames for addressing issues and resulting resolutions.
  3. Tie the process to the company’s strategy and goals: Intermountain aims to embed its fundamentals of care into all huddles and communicate to employees how improvements made are connected to the organization’s goals.
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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at