NPS Blog

The huddle: The short meeting that leads to big results

Net Promoter System podcastNo matter what size your company, keeping employees connected to the core mission can be a challenge. For frontline workers, the incessant flow of customer transactions can eventually strip them of context and meaning. Often, in an attempt to improve productivity, customer satisfaction or other business outcomes, a narrow focus on goals and metrics can distract them from what really matters: turning each customer into a profitable promoter. Back-office and managerial staff can face even stronger forces drawing them into the crisis of the day.

That’s why smart companies like Apple, Zappos and Telstra gather their employees regularly for short meetings, or huddles. They’re forums for employees to discuss how well they’re serving customers, what they could do to improve and what sort of help they need. They offer an opportunity for employees to solve problems, build camaraderie and recognize wins and losses. And they are an opportunity to recenter on the core mission of the company in a regular way.

Huddles are critical to a healthy team and company. We consider huddles the third mechanism of the Net Promoter System because they bring together the constant feedback of the “inner loop” and the larger systemic improvements forged in the “outer loop.” While these meetings may be short (usually 15–30 minutes), they’re the glue that connects individuals to each other and to the larger organization and its mission.

Fred ReichheldBain Fellow Fred Reichheld recently returned to the Net Promoter System Podcast to talk about all things huddle—what they are, how major companies use them and what makes them effective. He has spent the past two years developing HuddleUp, a digital tool that helps companies run better huddles.

Fred and I are no strangers to huddles. We have been taking part in them for years at Bain & Company. We just didn’t refer to them by that name. During what we at Bain call “case team meetings,” teams working on projects together discuss their progress, challenges they’re facing and feedback from clients. These meetings often address other important employee team topics, such as work-life balance.

Companies use huddles in a wide variety of settings. Developers at software start-ups, for example, might gather briefly each morning to share what they’re working on as they build a new product. These “agile scrums”—often conducted while standing—can help team members refocus their efforts and reenergize. The Net Promoter System formalizes two specific types of huddles. One type focuses on customers and serving them better, while the other addresses how team members work together and ways to improve the team environment. Often, teams combine these with each other or other huddle types in a sort of hybrid, or mash-up.

Like most things, running a good huddle takes practice. In the best huddles, team members prepare in advance so they can contribute to the conversation, and leaders start with open-ended questions to stimulate the discussion. Employees often take turns setting the agenda and managing the meeting. At the end, participants generally agree on actions they will take and commit to making improvements.

You can learn more about huddles in the next issue of Loyalty Insights. You can also listen to my conversation with Fred on the Net Promoter System Podcast. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or listen to this episode through the player below. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

Subscribe to the Net Promoter System podcast on iTunes

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