At Semco, we are always looking for ways to improve our business by working better and more efficiently as a team. Remaining competitive in graphite industries demands such rigorous self-reflection. As a graphite company, our main goals are producing high-quality work and doing so as efficiently as possible. Assuring high-quality work in a manufacturing setting as large as Semco’s shop floor means frequent and purposeful communication among all employees. One practice that we have implemented to ensure a rapid and open flow of information around the company is what we call the “morning huddle.” Like other techniques we use to distribute information around the shop, the morning huddle is relatively low-tech. (Not that Semco is any stranger to high-tech--we are experts in operating some of the most cutting-edge manufacturing technology in the business). We find, however, that information useful to the company can arise from any employee, and that face-to-face interactions are best at eliciting information that could be helpful to others. Our morning huddle, where every team member shares information and deliver status reports on various projects, is also the best place to plan further collaborations on solutions that will keep the shop moving and our customers satisfied. Here’s a little more about this possibly most important meeting of the day.
First of all, the morning huddle is not a long meeting where projects are discussed in detail. Rather, it’s a quick meeting where each team member gets a minute or two to give a snapshot of each day’s successes and challenges. Participants of the morning huddle hear updates from many other co-workers. Thus, our employees’ level of awareness about what is happening on the shop floor or in the sales department is very high (we actually split the morning meeting between the production team and the sales team, one meeting following the other in quick succession).
Everyone stands during morning huddle. It’s not that Semco doesn’t have enough chairs for everyone--rather, we believe that having everyone stand during morning meeting encourages the speakers to be on topic and to the point. We are not solving complex problems in the morning huddle. We are sharing important information and tracking our progress. Often, what will come of a morning huddle is that co-workers will follow up on problems discussed at the meeting and collaborate on solutions. The morning huddle is partly designed to help employees with questions find employees with answers, or at least to help those with questions identify the best collaborators to solve problems later. To get all this information out in the open at meetings, people must be concise. Standing encourages everyone to be concise.
Everyone speaks at morning huddle. No Semco employee’s perspective is irrelevant. After all, we are a graphite company that hires excellent people whose skills and knowledge we want to bring into the company, not shut out. So everyone gets a minute or two. Topics frequently brought up at morning huddle are accomplishments (which we celebrate and use as motivation), the day’s needs and top priorities, possible production roadblocks that other team members could help remove after the huddle (not during), client updates, ect. In general, the morning huddle provides a snapshot of important info from the prior day, the current day, and the future.
Most importantly about morning huddle, everyone attends. The meetings are held first thing in the morning in the same location every day. We believe in the importance of this meeting to the extent that we have built morning huddle into our company’s routine. Thus, we expect everyone to be there every day. Team leaders are present, but the meeting is an open forum, not a top-down opportunity for directives to be given. When it is someone’s time to speak, that employee speaks to everyone, not just his immediate supervisor. The first speaker at each meeting rotates, adding to the open and democratic spirit of these meetings.
Working in graphite industries means staying up-to-the-minute on what’s going on in your shop. Our short morning huddles -- they are rarely more than 15 minutes -- ensures that we run an efficient graphite manufacturing shop that produces the most high-quality products for our customers. Our employees leave every meeting accountable to their co-workers and highly focused on the tasks at hand.