24 June 2015 ~ 2 Comments

15 Minute Morning Meetings

Lots has been written about the value of morning “huddles” and many articles about entrepreneurship or “lean start-up” models are giving even more press to the concept of the morning team meeting. I had no idea it was a “thing” when Doug Beacom (now somewhat of a kraut tycoon) brought our first morning meeting to PEPY. Doug was one of PEPY’s first interns in 2006 (back when we had more interns than staff!) and I believe he had learned about morning huddles when working in a summer camp during his younger years. He brought us the morning meeting framework, which we adapted for our work in Cambodia.

Every work day (yep, 5 days a week!), we used to have a morning meeting, standing in a circle, which consisted of:

  • 5 minutes of updates: You would share something if you thought it was important for everyone to know or if you had a blockage in your work and you needed to ask for support that dayin order to move forward.
  • 5 minutes of logistics: Dates we needed to put in the calendar, timing of things (in Cambodia, it was often about the timing of the truck that would be going to or from our partner projects), the movement of different people so we knew when they would be out or where to find them, etc.
  • 5 minutes of acknowledgements: Thank yous, gratitude, respect, and love. This was a strange one at first as I am sure many wondered if we were really going to have people to thank for five minutes each morning. In the end, it was one of the best parts of setting our group culture and connecting us to the small wins each day. Even when we weren’t great at sitting back and reflecting on the bigger picture of our work, we could give thanks and high-fives to the daily steps it took to get there, and our morning meetings would sometimes involve thanks and gratitude to people outside of our circle: the man at the ministry of foreign affairs who finally granted a visa we needed or the guy who fixed the truck when it broke down (again!) the day before, etc. It not only kept people in the loop about the wider network of support that was fueling our progress but also left us all with a really happy feeling as we walked into the rest of our day.
  • A quick “Go team!” (with the requisite fist-pump) to close out the meeting. No explanation necessary :-)

Not everyone needed to share something every day – that was the point. It wasn’t a laundry list of “this is what I am working on” but rather a chance to speak up if you had something you thought would be useful to share that day, and a chance to listen and get caught up on the wider ecosystem of the groups work even if you weren’t speaking.

It wasn’t always 15 minutes (we needed the timer app which I’ll write about in my next post!) – but we created practices that helped keep us more on-track, like putting things in a “sidebar” if the conversation was getting off-track. To rotate the responsibility of keeping us on time, we would periodically change the time keeper/facilitator. Once we hired a lovely woman called Bopha we decided to stop rotating the facilitator and just asked Bopha to do it each morning, as her “Goooooooodmorning everybody!” was so joyful that no one could compete with her ability to deliver an upbeat day. (Yes, this is coming from me, the optimistic American – Bopha’s morning positivity had me beat by miles.)

Nearly every work-day morning for almost five years we had a standing morning meeting, and though I might not have realized it at the time, it was a cornerstone of our team’s coordination. It was not only how we shared little bits of joy and gratitude, but how we kept up to date about the wider workings of the organization, the upcoming needs, and the networks we were working within. When PEPY’s staff size was at its height, we were nearly 50 people, so keeping the morning meeting culture alive got push back from time to time, but I believe it was a fundamental tool for our work. In my final year in Cambodia we moved to only doing the meeting a few times a week, as we had multiple office locations, and though I know it continued for a bit after I left, I’m not sure if the tool is still part of the PEPY team culture. Perhaps it was replaced by any number of other useful tools for keeping a team connected and moving forward.

In my new role in Oxford we have been trying to figure out how to keep a wide networked group, spanning a few teams, connected and up to date on each other’s work, and have instated a weekly morning meeting across our Centres (Centers for you Americans). This one is less sweaty than those in our air-conditioning-free Cambodian office, and has less languages being spoken at once, but it’s a good reminder to me that it is a really useful tool to keep up momentum and communication.

If you are reading this far (thanks!), I’d love to hear other ideas for tools, ways to keep meetings efficient, or any other tips you have on building effective communication, efficiency, and momentum in teams. Books are useful, but it’s sometimes even more useful to hear from your network about what people are really trying and how it is working. By sharing these tips, the tricks of running an effective and safe summer camp can lead to more productive work around the world. (Thanks again, Doug, for this valuable gift so many years ago!).

What tools are YOU using – or what reflections do you have on “huddles”? Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.farmhouseculture.com Doug Beacom

    so awesome! who knew those summer camp skills would stretch so far– we’ve had a lot of luck using the 15 mins check-in and supporting it with Google Docs– we keep a “whiteboard” on a Google Doc where we can all add our green/red flags on the fly throughout the day/week, the idea is that when we huddle we don’t spend too much time on any one issue; because we’re able to read-ahead before we huddle- so if there are green flags, we celebrate a bit; if there are red-flags, we aim to come to the huddle with proposed solutions/problem solving. Doesn’t always work that way, but when it does it’s really satisfying– we end up spending less time catching everyone up to speed.

    I also use a lot of the photo/video sharing potential with cloud/google drive tools; the whole “picture is worth a thousand words” thing

  • Jeff Strachan

    The morning meeting still happens. gooooooooooo team 😉 the legacy continues.