Sometimes beginning the work of installing an operating system for your company can be overwhelming. I often get asked “where do I start?” or “what should I do first?”

While it can be dangerous to be prescriptive about where to start without some diagnostics on where things stand today, I can share this, what I consider to be the single most important habit of them all. The one discipline that can help put all the others in place.

It is the Daily Huddle.

When I look back at the success of my company, Appletree Answers, it was when we finally got the Daily Huddle right that all of the other components of Scaling Up started to fall into place. We grew the company 3000%, that’s not a typo… 30x! using the Scaling Up methodology and the Huddle was the key component…

So why and how is something so simple as an 11 minute meeting (that was our length at Appletree) 4 days a week so effective?

Seems too easy…

I want you to imagine for that you picked the top 100 cities in the U.S. and that every morning in your inbox were 100 .pdf images of the front page of the major newspaper in each of those cities. Just the front page. You open the .pdf and in rapid fire flip through the images and just read the headlines. Let’s say you could do that in 5 minutes or so…

What kind of idea do you think you might have about what’s happening the U.S. on any given day if you had all those data points? All of those data points would create patterns that would inform your gut instinct about what was happening.

THAT is the Daily Huddle in the company. It is a chance for everyone in the company to get on the same page around the “headlines” in the business.

Here is how it worked at Appletree…

First KEY – Start on time, end on time, EVERY time.

9:05am every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday most of us gathered in our conference room, and a few of us dialed in to a conference bridge. The bridge was opened at 9 so we could start at 9:05am sharp. No hello, can you hear me? Are you there? If you were in the Huddle you were on and ready to go at 9:05am.

So we would start…no chit chat, no banter, just a very simple “what’s up?” That was the chance for everyone to share their #1 priority for the day. Not a to do list, not 3 things, but the ONE THING that was the most important commitment to complete that day.

Second KEY – Be incredibly SPECIFIC in the details.

Not “working on the website” instead “rewriting the bios of Joe Kelly, Fred Jones, and Tina Smith, our three new hires and uploading them by end of day”.

So after our round of what’s up (no follow up or discussion, just the update) we then move on to metrics. Just a handful of things we might want to track on a day after day basis.

One example might be open positions. “We have 6 unfilled positions as of today, 2 in sales, and 4 call center”. Why day after day with the same metrics?? PATTERNS… if you hear for 4, 5 or 9 straight huddles that you have “6 unfilled”, “6 unfilled”, “6 unfilled” it is way more impactful than hearing it once a week, or once a month or ever.

Third KEY – Don’t assume because you already know everything that there isn’t tremendous VALUE IN THE REPETITION of the huddle (just trust me on this).

Last, we go around and share “stucks”, as in where are you STUCK? You didn’t have to share any or you could share more than 1 if needed. Again no problem solving here because ending on time is critical. If I had a way to help with your stuck it was a simple, “Hey, I can help with that, catch up with me after.”

And that’s it. The end. 11 minutes for us and everyone was statused on everyone else, the patterns were out, some problems solved and we were on with our day. Many of the 9:05 group would then do the same with their teams and before 10am everyone in the company was up to speed. POWERFUL!!

Couple things the daily huddle does…
1.  Lets you as a leader see how your people are prioritizing things, do they match what you think the priorities are?

2.  Forces people to come prepared with a priority each day, so they get to think about what matters most.

3.  Eliminates “no one ever told me that”. (Massively powerful)

4.  Taps into the collective intelligence. Imagine a CMO helping a COO with a stuck, would never happen without the huddle.

5.  Most importantly, for you as the leader, you get all the headlines, all the patterns, and it makes setting strategy and decision making WAY EASIER!!!

I could just say “trust me this works” but I will address “my team will never go for this”, etc… just try it. Be super specific in what’s up and give it 2 weeks. If you think it doesn’t work after two weeks, I will stand corrected that it is not the single most important discipline. But if someone comes forward and tells me that, and they are doing the process properly but don’t see the benefit…they will be the first.


Founder of the align5 Companies,  CEO of Scaling Up Coaches, and Serial Entrepreneur

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