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Mastering Digital Distance with Daily Huddles

Posted by The HCI Group on March 23, 2020 at 10:13 AM

Mastering Digital Distance


Ed Marx, Chief Digital Officer at The HCI Group gives his account on how our organization has quickly adapted to the changing dynamic that the Coronavirus pandemic has brought to the workforce...

"As social distancing and working from home become the norm, many companies struggle to respond. There are feelings of helplessness. Anxiety rises. We grapple with management control and routine communications. Unprepared, we are challenged to deploy secure collaboration capabilities. We lack the ability to flex capacity and respond quickly to emerging business demands. I get it. Been there, learned the hard way and I have a couple of ideas...

Here is how my organization imperfectly broke the power of helplessness. How we calmed nerves and restored business continuity. I share this in the hope that it may help another organizations who is struggling at this time. Feel free to copy our playbook and adjust as your own. There is no magic bullet, but you can learn from our experience. 

I have practiced Huddles for a few years now. When I served NYC Health & Hospitals, our PMO was 100% Agile. The outcomes impressed me. At Cleveland Clinic, we moved our entire IT division to Agile. Huddles became our norm. As the entire Clinic adopted and perfected daily Huddles, I learned enhanced techniques. The results were irrefutable. Before noon each day, Clinic leadership had a heartbeat on all key metrics. Communications improved as did results. We had the benefit of in-person Huddles. We are in a new reality. 

With COVID-19 as catalyst, HCI moved our global enterprise virtual in early March. We implemented Huddles in 48 hours. Here is our playbook...


1.  Deploy Secure Connection

Given the nature of our business, most of our team had secure and compliant virtual access to key applications. We happen to sell our own secure collection tools so we better! Employees gain access in 48 hours through cloud enabled downloads. Find a trusted secure connection provider and ensure compliancy to HIPAA, PCI, etc. Being global, we satisfied world-wide regulatory requirements.  


2.  Select Collaboration Tool

There are many good options. Pick one and ensure video is enabled. The ability to have chats and exchange and view documents is critical. Ultimate key is to mandate use of video for all meetings. No exceptions. Good tools have mobile versions as well. There is never a reason not to be visually engaged.  Never.


3.  Establish Huddles

There are many any ways to do this. Here is what we did: 


a.   Establish key metrics

Review your KPI or enterprise Goals or OKR. Whatever you call them. Update as needed. All of the Huddle metrics collected should ultimately tie back to your company mission and stated goals. This is your baseline.


b.  Grab your org chart

Count how many management layers you have. Each layer equals one tier. We have 4 tiers. Each tier has Huddles. Each tier Huddles meet one hour apart. Tier 1 0900; Tier 2 1000; Tier 3 1100; Tier 1200. 


c.   Tier 1. 0900

Your lowest level of management. There will be multiple Tier 1 Huddles taking place simultaneously. Managers are meeting with their direct reports. Ideally every employee is engaged at this level. Their voice is heard. Metrics are recorded and any concerns. 


d.  Tier 2. 1000

All managers in that division are meeting together reporting up aggregate metrics to directors. Depending on how many divisions you have, there will be multiple Tier 2 meetings taking place.  


e.  Tier 3. 1100

All directors are reporting up and recording aggregate metrics to vice presidents. They are increasingly refined. Not every metric collected at Tier 1 is critical for higher Tiers. They may be critical for management of that Tier but not for all. Leadership is wisdom in defining key metrics that lead to enabling the organizations mission. 


f.    Tier 4. 1200

All vice presidents are reporting up to the president. Someone is assigned as the facilitator and recorder. Metrics are collected digitally in real-time. In 15 minutes, the executive team understands all the key metrics for that day. There is also time to discuss any key challenges. If a particular item requires more depth, the appropriate individuals meet afterwards to tackle.   


New norm is complying with social distance while mastering digital distance. There are many benefits to daily Huddles, reducing the impact of COVID-19. 


1.  Accountability & Transparency

You now have line of sight between the work done at every level of the enterprise. Through a series of adjustments, you will ensure alignment of your organization. Everyone rowing in the same direction. Nothing can be hidden. 


2.  Trend Analysis

Since all key metrics are recorded and compared to baseline, the data becomes invaluable. You know can see trends over time and make daily adjustments as needed.


3.  Relationship Enhancement

Leveraging the collaboration tools, you are seeing each member of your immediate team daily. Despite the lack of physical presence, your team intimacy and connectedness may actually improve.


4.  Engagement & Ownership

When done right, all your employees are involved. They begin to understand organizations goals and are exposed to such daily. A sense of ownership increases.  


One last idea to adopt

We end every Huddle with a pause. We spend the final 15 seconds together, quiet. Still. We call out one hospital we serve and reflect. We give silent thanks for the caregivers. We send positive thoughts concerning all the patients and their families. We think about the community. We encourage meditation in whatever form is comfortable for each person. This process centers us. Reminds us of our sacred commitment to each of our customers and the sanctity of the service they provide people. People like us.  

digital unplugged webinar 3



Topics: Digital Transformation

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