Innovating the Team Huddle

Amanda Patton

University of Pennsylvania is building a new 1.5 million square foot new hospital on Penn Medicine’s West Philadelphia campus. 

It is the largest capital project in Penn’s history and most ambitious health care building in its region to date. Working under an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) contract, the team is a mix of five primary entities plus a host of Key Trade Subcontractors and many more design and construction firms and consultants. The core team of 75+ people works in a colocation space about a mile away from the construction site and there are remote team members as far away as London.

The Challenge

To bridge the various cultures, experiences and communication methodologies of multiple firms and a diverse team of over 200 people communicate effectively and achieve alignment.

The Solution: A Good Old-fashioned Team Huddle

The concept of a huddle is not new; it’s used by sports teams as a means of communication about the next play and expresses unity around that shared goal. It’s also an important part of the Last Planner system often used in the field. The team took inspiration from both concepts and instituted a weekly colocation huddle - with an innovative twist. 

The Need for Speed 

Things can change very quickly during the design and construction of a complicated fast-tracked healthcare facility. The weekly team huddles ensured everyone was up-to-date and working from the same information.
Similar to a Last Planner weekly update, the huddles also encourage transparency and awareness of the interdependency of tasks and information, which builds trust within the team. 

The huddles initially started as a low-tech gathering around a whiteboard, but the team soon realized that this method couldn’t keep up with the speed of communication required.  The team didn’t always have time to properly update the board – leading to low engagement from attendees. Rather than abandoning the huddle concept, the team brainstormed improvements.

Innovating the Team Huddle 

The team called on some of the technologies already in use for the project (Bluebeam Studio and the Huddle Wall) and created a large format PDF that was more efficient to update and more engaging for the attendees. The new format was easier to read, completely scalable based on the amount of information needed for discussion and an effortless way to incorporate graphics and charts to present more complicated information. It also provided a single data entry point that can be used for multiple communications across the team, colocation and site.

As part of the innovative huddle, a Studio session is created each week with a template file that each designated contributor must update with their most current information. The technology allows multiple editors at once and can be edited remotely, making it extremely efficient for such a large and spread-out team.

Unlike a traditional team huddle, if someone isn’t able to physically be there for the innovative huddle, it’s no problem. The final PDF file is shared each week so remote members or anyone who missed the huddle can see the critical information immediately.

Improved Communication, Engagement and Efficiency

Teammates in a variety of positions and authority levels are asked to take responsibility for the various sections of the huddle. This creates ownership among the team for the huddle and more importantly, for the coordination and communication needed to manage the information from week to week.

The result of the team huddles is a more informed, engaged and lean-thinking project team. The information and discussions that are generated by the huddles have led to is greater alignment on what is happening and what needs to be done in real-time. By eliminating the risk of people missing out on critical information or simply not being aware of the latest developments, the team is able to eliminate the need for rework and avoid miscommunications.

Key Lessons

The team has learned the following best practice tips to help ensure each team huddle is a success:

  • Information must be kept current and up-to-date to keeps teams engaged
  • Responsibility for information/updates must be shared to avoid any bottlenecks
  • Huddles and updates must be held consistently, preferably at the same time each week to avoid it dropping off people’s radars
  • Involve all stakeholders in the process so everyone shares equal responsibility and feels equal engagement
  • Keep it short and sweet – nobody has all day
  • Set the tone that huddles are for constructive, solutions-based conversations only 

Will This Work for My Project?

Any team can benefit from the improved communication, trust, alignment and behavioral shifts that a team huddle can foster. This process can be enabled and enhanced even further using the Bluebeam Studio and Huddle Wall technology. 

Teams that may get the most out of this technology include:

  • IPD project or colocation space
  • Fast-paced or complex project
  • Teams with large and diverse number of teammates and stakeholders
  • Teams with remote teammates or consultants 

Interested in improving communication, engagement and efficiency on your project? The innovated huddle may be the right solution for you. To find out more about how to make this work for your team, please contact Amanda Patton or Mark Konchar