It can sometimes feel hard getting through your agenda during your hour-long meetings — so then, how are you supposed to make a 15- or 20-minute meeting work?
This is both the main challenge and the benefit of holding a team huddle. Team huddles provide opportunities to surface important information, but with constraints that make sure teams use the time efficiently.
But how can you pull this off without your team huddle becoming just another recurring meeting? Or, even worse, another bottleneck to productivity? That’s what this article is going to look at.
What is a team huddle?
A team huddle is a type of short, recurring meeting that you'll typically use to check in with team members, align on project goals, and address any challenges or issues.
Also called a stand-up or scrum, team huddles are often held on a recurring daily or weekly basis. They're often done in-person, but there’s no reason they can’t also be done virtually. Regardless, their purpose is to improve visibility across the team and make it easier for everyone to work together.
Benefits of regular team huddles
Making huddles a habit on your team is an effective way of improving productivity across all your projects. Here are some of their main benefits:
Better team alignment: Regular huddles are a great way to make sure everyone knows what they should be working on, understands any specific processes, and is aware of the team’s or project’s larger goals.
Improved communication: Not only do huddles make it easy to quickly ask questions or clarify issues, but they also eliminate the time-consuming emails and messages that would have otherwise been sent.
Increased camaraderie: By getting the team together to talk regularly, huddles can help bring the team together, give them an opportunity to educate one another, and even connect over their shared wins or losses.
Enhanced problem-solving: Huddles are a place where team members can easily bring up any challenges they’re having or roadblocks they’re facing. This helps ensure everything keeps moving forward efficiently.
Faster teamwork: Maybe best of all (at least for some people), huddles can be done quickly. About 15 minutes is all you should need to get everyone aligned and ready for the day.
How to run a team huddle meeting
Running effective team huddles can take practice — both for you and your team members. But as long as you follow a few simple tips, you can help maximize this time and turn it into a useful part of everyone’s day.
1. Follow a simple agenda
Giving your huddle some structure (and sticking to it) will help provide that you can accomplish what you want without the conversation going off the rails. One good way to do this is to build the standup around a specific set of questions, such as these three:
What did you do yesterday?
What will you do today?
Is there anything blocking you?
Alternatively, you could make your focus even more specific:
What are your goals?
How are you accomplishing them?
What's your measure of success?
Of course, you can use any set of questions, or even ditch them altogether for another format, as long as you’re able to craft an agenda that addresses what your team needs.
Try the daily scrum meeting template
The daily scrum template helps teams easily check-in and track team progress. Ask the team huddle questions, visualize how tasks are coming along throughout the week or sprint period, and raise any concerns or roadblocks that may need to be resolved for the team.
2. Keep the huddle short
The whole point of your daily team huddle is to help make it easier for everyone to work, so don’t take a big chunk out of their work day. Instead, keep the huddle as short as you can make it.
About 15 minutes is the average amount of time most huddles are. This should be long enough to get everyone aligned and their issues resolved. If you find yourself pushing past 20 minutes, consider revisiting your agenda to see how you can make your meeting more concise.
3. Try to hold the huddle earlier in the day
If possible, make your daily huddles a regular part of your mornings. Although afternoon meetings may allow team members to address the projects or issues they’re working on currently, they can also be an unwelcome intrusion in the middle of the day. Plus, they give team members less time to accomplish any action items afterwards.
In contrast, morning meetings help set the tone by making sure everyone is aligned, all roadblocks are removed, and every action item is clarified. Everyone will know exactly what they should be working on and how best to go about it. Plus, you’ll be more likely to have an energetic and engaged team that’s motivated to get their work done. This will help make sure the day gets started on the right foot.
4. Focus on the essentials
You only have about 15 minutes, so there’s no time for things like greetings, icebreakers, or small talk. Instead, your job is to keep your team focused on running through your most important tasks.
A good way to do this is to limit your huddle to action items only. That means this isn’t the place for any project planning or brainstorming. Save those for your weekly or monthly team meetings. If a team member insists on getting into the weeds during the huddle, let them know that you can meet with them afterwards to solve their problem to avoid wasting anyone else’s time.
5. Establish a regular cadence for the huddles
You want your huddles to become a habit, something that your team can seamlessly incorporate into their day and week. If you’re holding them at random times, or whenever your schedule happens to be free, you’ll just make it harder for your team to prepare for them. Some people might be in the middle of a project, while others may be just wrapping one up. No one will be in the right mindset to get aligned.
Instead, try establishing a regular time to meet for your huddle — then stick to it. We think the mornings are the best time, but pick a slot that makes sense for your team. Keep it up long enough and they’ll be showing up ready and prepared without even thinking about it.
6. Huddles should be team-based, not project-based
The brevity and efficiency of huddles are one of their core benefits — but this will disappear if you require team members to sit in on three or four of them each day.
To prevent this, base your huddles not around each project (which can sometimes number in the dozens for each team member), but instead around each team. This way, you can help not only reduce the number of huddles, but also provide teams with an opportunity to manage their project workloads among themselves.
It’s vital to remember that huddles are only as valuable as the results they achieve. You and your team may enjoy getting together each day to discuss your projects and work through your issues, but if this isn’t helping move your work forward, then you may just be wasting your time.
It’s up to the team leader or project manager to make sure each huddle actually has meaning. There are plenty of ways you can do this. By checking in with team members later to see how they’re doing with any action items they were assigned, you can make sure that they have everything they need to be successful. Likewise, by following up on any issues that were raised, you’ll show the team that these huddles lead to results.
8. Standardize and track each huddle
Finally, it’s always a good idea to track each huddle in a standardized format. This is just a simple but effective way of helping team members stay organized. They’ll be able to see what their action items are, know what everyone else is working on, and be able to check back on any resolved issues or roadblocks from previous days.
While all this can be done over a video call or in a standard meeting room, a more visual format can make it easier to share information and keep people engaged. These Mural templates can help you get started and can easily be adapted for your next team huddle:
Meeting notes template: Keep your meetings focused by documenting agendas, tracking decisions, and detailing action items.
Use huddles to improve collaboration and help your team work better
It’s time to make the most of your 15 minutes. Although short, properly organized and executed team huddles can also be very sweet. By helping to quickly align your team, address their problems, and clarify what they need to work on, they can be the perfect way to start your day or week. Just remember to keep them brief, on topic, and relevant for everyone involved.
But there’s no reason you have to start from scratch. In addition to the templates above, Mural has an entire template library you can use to get your team more organized, aligned, and productive. Try Mural out to see for yourself.
About the authors
About the authors
David is a contributing writer at Mural, focused on covering collaboration, meetings, and teamwork. He's been working in the hybrid tech space for over 10 years and has been writing about it nearly as long. When he's not doing that, he's probably cooking up a meal.