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Don’t Hate the Huddle

Corporate huddles may begin as "forced fun" but can evolve into an essential (even rewarding!) weekly meeting, says Method founder Eric Ryan.
Corporate huddles can be great meetings
illustration by Todd Detwiler

Huddles are cheesy, new-agey, and maybe even creepy. But we’re recommending them anyway, for two reasons:

1. Eric Ryan, cofounder of Method, a $100 million cleaning-products company, swears by huddles as a way to preserve a culture — especially under the pressures of rapid growth.

2. We’ve learned at our Build/Live events that you, noble readers, take the challenge of culture preservation quite seriously.

Back in 2005, Ryan was concerned about maintaining Method’s culture. He sought advice from Richard Reed, cofounder of Innocent Drinks, a beverage company with 250 employees. Reed suggested a huddle. Ryan liked the idea, but implementation wasn’t easy.

“The first one was a bit awkward, feeling more like a forced staff meeting,” he recalls on FastCompany.com. “It slowly transitioned into something more akin to a weekly sales status. That wasn’t much better.”

Subsequent attempts to lighten the mood felt too much like “forced family fun.” But in time, Ryan figured it out. Today, Method’s huddles are “dedicated to discussing and preserving everything that makes us who we are as a company, like new sales wins, financial challenges, birthdays, babies, and other personal announcements,” he notes. “But above all, it’s a caffeinated way to kick off the week with laughs, smiles, and the occasional celebration.”

Here are Ryan’s six tips for non-cringe-inducing huddles:

• Have a different huddle leader each week. It preserves the community spirit, keeps it fresh, and prevents the need to cancel if someone is out of the office.

• Create a regular schedule, so there’s an expected cadence to the huddle, but keep the agenda loose, and leave room for things like “shout-outs of awesomeness” to recognize exceptional work.

• Occasionally disrupt the huddle with an outside speaker or major agenda point. Having a standing weekly meeting creates the perfect forum to discuss major topics. (Method hasn’t had to call a separate all-company meeting in three years.)

• Send out notes afterward to keep everyone in the loop, inform those who missed the huddle that day, and reinforce its importance.

• Don’t hold it in a conference room. Anywhere but a conference room!

• Keep it fun. Ensure it delivers a boost of energy to start the week. And if it starts getting stale, don’t be afraid to adjust the format until it works for your company.

#buildhuddles

THE PLUS

“If your company is too big, start a huddle with your department,” Ryan suggests. “It might feel odd at first, but I promise if you stick with it, a natural rhythm will emerge. People will get comfortable participating in the culture.… Long-term, it will help your company find an authentic way of reinforcing your shared values and align everyone toward company goals.”

Ryan and cofounder Adam Lowry are contributors to FastCompany.com. See their post “The Method Method of Creating and Nurturing Amazing Corporate Culture” for a rundown of their mind-set about culture preservation.

For more on huddles, we recommend the New York Times blog post “The Verdict on Business Huddles” by Adriana Gardella.

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