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The Importance of the Daily Meeting

By Kevin Meyer

Several lean blogs have coincidentally discussed the importance of the daily stand up accountability meeting over the last few days, so I wanted to add my voice in complete agreement.

Mark over at the Lean Blog wrote about the daily huddle from a hospital perspective

conversation quickly steered to the idea of starting each meeting, at
any level, with a brief discussion of employee safety. As I thought back
to my time in manufacturing  — yes, that’s a very common practice in
manufacturing settings, including those that aren’t using Lean methods. So my mind went back to how rarely I’ve seen that practiced in hospitals — why is that?

Jamie Flinchbaugh has a video blog on the subject.  

Regardless of where you sit in the organizational hierarchy, daily
huddles are a great tool for any team to create engagement, alignment,
surface problems, and more.

Lee over at Daily Kaizen also had a post on the importance of a morning meeting.  

As an organization transitions to a Lean management system many of
existing structures and practices change. Teams and individuals begin to
work together in new, more disciplined and more effective ways. One of
the most important changes early on in the transformation is the
requirement that team members participate in a Daily Huddle. Having a
Daily Huddle is a simple change, but for teams and managers it a
profound change.

All in the past two days.  That should tell you something.

The daily stand up meeting is critically important, and it does change the culture.  Traditional organizations wait a week or two between staff meetings to discuss issues, and by the time the meeting rolls around many subtle issues have been forgotten.  Rigid agendas often prevent the surfacing and discussion of unplanned topics.  Team members can go days without talking with each other.

A brief morning meeting done right creates collaboration, communication, and accountability to results. 

At my morning executive staff stand up meeting we video conference in the managers from our other sites, occasionally poking fun at them when we can see snow out their conference room window while we're enjoying another sunny California coast day.  Then we get down to business.

The first topic on our agenda is always safety.  I mandated this as part of all department morning meetings and it has changed the culture.  As I commented on Mark's post, which focused on the importance of safety:

we begin having “safety” as the very first topic at the daily 5 minute
standup meetings for the leadership team and every department, our
culture changed quickly. We also began noticing unexpected trends and
coming up with immediate solutions – none of which effectively happened
with the old “quarterly safety review” format. The impact on our safety
statistics has been very positive, but perhaps just as importantly it
sent a clear signal to our employees that safety is a priority.

needs to be an open conversation where everyone is comfortable bringing
up safety issues without blame or recrimination. One example of
“unexpected trends” which I believe is a big issue in hospitals is that
one of our managers brought up a slip near-miss incident. The other
managers became sensitized to this and over the next week they all
witnessed or heard about similar near-misses in their departments, which
had gone unreported because they were underlying “normal occurrences.”
Over the next couple weeks we discussed this in the morning meeting,
created action plans, and ended up changing our mopping procedure,
mopping fluid, and are now trying out new “anti-slip” shoes in specific
areas. We would never have known about this, and would have continued
to deal with the occasional real slip injury believing it was sporadic
and random and not part of a trend.

That would never have happened with a traditional weekly or biweekly staff meeting, let alone a quarterly mind-numbing review.  I continued my comment with what I believe is a powerful result of having safety as the number one topic.

the other major impact is the reflection on the oft-forgotten “respect
for people” pillar of lean. What better way to send a message to your
employees that they matter and you care? They will reward you for that
with better service, commitment, and improvement ideas.

So safety is our first topic.  The second is a review of customer issues - complaints, shipping problems, and the like.  This gets them resolved or at least acted upon quickly and creates a customer-centric mindset among the staff.  Third is a quick review of our calendar to ensure we're all up to date on visitors, customer and otherwise.

The fourth topic is perhaps the most important after safety.  We rotate around the staff with each staff member thereby taking center stage twice a month.  The first time their day comes up in a given month they present their metrics against goals and what they are projecting for the future.  The second time they present the status of key projects in their department, in effect soliciting buy-in from the other staff members that they are still working on the right priorities.  All this time they are standing in front of a white board that holds our long term/3 year/annual hoshin strategy with A3's for the annual improvement programs.  Alignment and accountability is created.

Finally we have a brief open forum and usually there's a quick issue or two to be discussed.  Then off we go... just a few feet since last year I co-located my entire local staff around a central huddle area.  The improvement in communication resulting from colocation has been incredible, but that's the subject of another post.

It generally takes closer to 10 minutes instead of 5, but that's fine.

The problem with a daily meeting is that they can be tough to
implement.  The last thing that most employees want is yet another
meeting, let alone very first thing in the morning, and standing up no

This is one of those tools that may need to be an executive
mandate.  If they are done right the value will be seen after only a
couple weeks.

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2 Responses to "The Importance of the Daily Meeting"

  • Jim Fernandez
    8 September 2010 - 7:26 am

    100% correct. Standup morning meetings are very effective.

    Our planning staff meet every morning. It helps keep our manufacturing process on schedule.

  • Tim Roback
    8 September 2010 - 1:23 pm

    Focusing on safety at stand up meetings is an excellent way to move from a safety slogan to a true safety culture at an organization. In manufacturing for example, companies are going to great lengths to improve safety for workers who interact with machines. The effectiveness of the safety improvements and risk reduction are directly related to the involvement of the machine operators, the engineering team, the maintenance team, even the janitorial staff in the risk analysis process. However, unless there is a true, deeply ingrained culture of safety, people will always find ways to circumvent safety measures in a misguided attempt to save time and effort or reduce scrap. A “from the top down, and the bottom up” safety culture must be in place to realize the full potential of any safety measures, and including safety in the stand-up meetings is a great way to help build that culture and keep an active, open safety dialogue top of mind.