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What do successful meetings have in common with playing the drums?

Guest post from Dana Williams,  Manager, Data Programming

For the last few years, as head of the Data team at Prime Data, I’ve been blessed to work with a great team.

The team members share some commonalities, but it’s the differences in knowledge, experience, culture and personalities that make this team great.

Unbelievably, meetings took the team from good to great

Two years ago our company, Prime Data, began implementing practices recommended in the book Scaling Up, by Verne Harnish.

The book, which highlights best practices for “Scaling Up” businesses by aligning whole companies to common goals for success, has been instrumental in improving the culture and communication here.

One of the recommended practices that we implemented was a daily huddle.

Nobody wanted to do this

Daily huddles were met with some resistance at first. Some of the initial comments were, “How can I get my work done if I’m always in meetings?”

This could not be dismissed, as we had started doing daily huddles in our busiest quarter. In honesty, I too was feeling that adding a 10- to 15-minute daily meeting was counterproductive.

We were already working extra hours to keep up with our client demands. That said, we began to meet daily and slowly the rhythm became easier, and then second nature.

Here’s where the drums come in

Fun fact: I’m a student of the drums with a studio in my basement.

I’ve learned that if you want to learn a rhythm, you start slow, practice consistency. When it becomes second nature you build on it, whether that be speed or complexity.

It takes some effort to get the rhythm, but it’s worth the time

For a while, getting individual members to contribute to the ‘conversation’ of the daily huddle was a challenge.

It seemed on the surface that team members felt they were doing exactly the same thing as they were doing the last time they attended a huddle. They didn’t feel they were contributing anything new or worth mentioning.

To get things rolling I simply asked:

  • What’s new since yesterday?
  • Any roadblocks?
  • Any personal stuff to share?

It took some time before their daily successes, challenges and insights started to be shared in the group.

Like drumming, once we had the rhythm, wonderful things started to happen

Team members began to easily recognize when others had successes or, on the flip side, needed the support of their colleagues to overcome challenges.

As a benefit to knowing more about what others are doing, our workloads became balanced.

We also started to learn more about each other: things like personal interests, family and goals. The team started feeling a lot more like family than just work associates.

Problem solving’s become a natural extension

There are a few rules to these huddles and one of them is that the meeting is not to be used for problem solving. We resist the temptation and do the problem solving offline.

This is difficult to do, but as we have gotten better at this we have realized the benefit of this rule.

The huddles are to bring the team together, align the team, but problem solving is a welcome outcome.

Like learning a funky drum riff, the whole huddle thing did not come together overnight. It took us a while to get in the groove and benefit from their cadence.  But now, it feels like we’re missing a beat if they don’t happen.

Related blogs:

Employee engagement makes Prime Data a better partner

Who cares about values anyway?

Learning at the speed of innovation

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