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Daily Huddles Lead to Successful and Safe Projects | Bob Kunz, Corporate Safety Director Dimeo Construction Company

A multitude of reasons account for differences in safety, productivity, and quality in the building construction industry.  Factors include schedule, complexity of design, weather, availability of an experienced, knowledgeable and skilled workforce, and the jobsite safety climate.  An effective tool to manage the downstream effects of these impacts on safety, schedule, and budget is the daily huddle. 

The incorporation of daily huddles into the daily work tasks of field management is an effective way to develop high performing teams through the identification and mitigation of waste.  Downtime is the enemy of an efficient schedule, but when used within the context of daily huddles, the acronym DOWNTIME can be used as the framework to effectively manage the movement of team members and materials on a complex jobsite. Another acronym high performing team leaders can use as a pneumonic is LEADER from the 5 leadership skills identified within the CPWR Foundations for Safety Leadership (FSL) program.
 

DOWNTIME

Defects
Overproduction
Waiting
Non-Utilized Talent
Transportation
Inventory
Motion
Extra-Processing
 
LEADER

Lead by example
Engage and empower
Activity listen and 3-way communication
DEvelop team members through teaching coaching and feedback and provide
Recognition provided by leaders
 

In using these principles, the goals of daily huddles are to identify what went well over the past 24 hours, Recognize good catches, evaluate areas of improvement over the next 24 hours, update status of open items, and reinforce the importance of work planning. 
 
Dimeo’s daily crew huddle journey started in April 2010 as an intervention to an alarming Q1 incident trend.   Since then, Dimeo has operationalized daily crew huddles, CM/GC - project partner huddles, and team leader huddles across all trades and projects.  We find the following criteria and standardized practices for daily huddles achieve successful onsite programs.

1. Daily crew huddle – start of shift.  This huddle allows a crew leader to establish worker readiness, to Engage and empower the crew in planning and to take corrective action, and ensure the resources to support safe production are available. Below is a photo of a daily crew huddle on one of Dimeo’s projects:

2. CM/GC and project partners huddle – just before or after lunch break.  This huddle is focused on logistics.  Below is a photo of a project partners huddle from one of Dimeo’s jobs.

3. Team leaders huddle – mid-afternoon.   This huddle allows the supervisor to review the notes from the CM/GC and project partners huddle.  The supervisor communicates the logistical issues and last minute adjustments to the production schedule and resource acquisition. 

Location

For field crews, the meeting should be as close to the work as possible to maximize efficiencies.  The construction industry is a visual environment – 2D plans, mockups, drone imagery, BIM.  An abstract discussion without utilization of a visualization tool has proven to generate waste, such as defects resulting from misunderstanding.  The location should be large enough to safely accommodate the group size, visualization aids and not otherwise create a distraction – noise, temperature, etc.

Group Size

We have observed and contractors have reported that group size matters, especially at the crew level, with 30 being the maximum.  Ultimately, the huddle is a time to recognize a good catch, provide a respectful environment with Active listening and 3-way communication.  In an effective huddle, each team member should feel Engaged and empowered to participate in planning the work and improving the project.

The number of participants depends on the complexity of work and maturity of the leader’s LEADER skills.

Meeting Leader

It is in the long-term interest of any organization to cultivate future leaders and support the continuing development of existing leaders.  To that end, the introduction of the CWPR FSL to all future and current leaders is essential to succession planning and creation of high performing teams. The supervisor should identify and create opportunities for teaching, coaching and providing feedback to subordinate leaders.  The daily crew huddle provides wonderful DEvelopment opportunity.  Eventually, the supervisor can move on to critical activity and long-range work planning.

Visualization Board

A visualization board is a valuable tool for workers to reference and use during huddles.  Dimeo uses a visualization board to track work progress, manage commitment, and remind crews about focus activities.  As a CM/GC, our Carpentry and Laborer crews often confront unplanned work caused by numerous issues including missed scope, unforeseen conditions, project schedule, and/or weather.

On some occasions, the project superintendent and crew members have conflicting subjective opinions about why work was not completed.  Using a visualization board to discuss unplanned work activities fosters an objective discussion about the cause and solution of those work activities and supports a respectful environment to form an improvement plan.  Dimeo’s work planning board is below:

Over the past several years, we have encouraged our field operations team members (i.e. project engineers, project managers, safety managers) to attend daily crew huddles.  Huddles are an excellent way to remind our project teams about “what it takes to put work in place.”  Additionally, huddles often mitigate waste through planning following the early identification of constraints.  Repeated reinforcement of that safety as a core value  is communicated through these dynamic daily huddles.



Dimeo’s pursuit of continual improvement would not be possible without our practice of daily huddles.   The daily huddles have and continue to create tremendous value and more importantly deliver the reliable safe, productive and quality driven outcome that all stakeholders deserve.