Areas of Interest, Operations Management, Leadership, Tactics, Productivity, Getting Stuff Done

What can Leroy Jenkins Teach us about Front Line Shift Huddles?

Have you ever worked at a place that drives 24/7 continuous operations?  Things can go haywire fast, and when they do it is almost always due to breakdowns in communication.  So for instance shift A forgot to tell shift B about something really important.  Shift B makes their plan for the day without this key information.  Chaos ensues, the gremlins get loose, and the next several shifts are left wondering what the heck just happened.

I don't know about where you work, but everywhere I have worked shift huddles are places where strong opinions are expressed when the gremlins get loose.  During these moments, things can get tense which  further impacts communications and then increases the risk of even more breakdowns in an amplifying loop of mayhem.

So when this happens... and if you work in a multi-shift setting it always happens, I like to call on Leroy Jenkins to show everybody how to run a functional shift huddle.

Using Leroy Jenkins as Leadership Training

If you don't know about Leroy Jenkins, today is your lucky day.

Here is the backstory... a team of warcraft players are about to attack a fortress of powerful monsters.  Before going in, they gather together to conduct what is essentially a shift huddle.  Safety first...

Important Note:  This video may not be ideal for every work environment as the language is a little harsh.  If you work in a manufacturing setting, it is probably mild.  In either case, I advise that you pre-screen the following before you stamp your signature of approval on it...

Anyhow, when I use this as training, this is the agenda:

  • Set the tone... let everybody know this is training and will be fun
  • Set up the story... This is a team of people that are planning their day in a shift huddle.  Tell the team that their job is to "coach" this group of warriors and help them improve their teamwork and communication.
  • Watch the video as a team....  challenge your team to identify everything that goes wrong in this huddle.
  • Group discussion... see how many errors, miscommunications, failures and breakdowns are uncovered.  
  • Now ask the question... are we doing any of these things?

Once the video is done, it's group discussion time using a standard AAR format:

  • What should have happened?
  • What actually happened?
  • What is the difference?

If you have ever participated in or lead a shift huddle, you will quickly identify that there is quite a bit going wrong here.  For example:

  • Leroy is not in attendance - shift huddles should include all members of the team
  • The plan is way too complex - at least 20 steps
  • The mission isn't clear - nobody really knows why they are even going into the monster fortress.
  • The probability of technical success is 33.333333...% - a little low for my liking, normal for this crew
  • Leroy missed the huddle so he doesn't know the plan, so is not following the plan, yet he kicks the whole plan in motion
  • Everybody else decides to stick with the plan, even though it is failing and the monsters are running amok.  When a plan is shot you need to re-plan.  Fast.
  • The blame game starts when things really begin to go sideways.
  • Leroy is blamed.  He says "it's not my fault".  It is totally Leroy's fault.  Leroy denies all accountability.
  • At the end of the battle, when the warriors are decimated, there is an awkward attempt at positivity.  There are no "lessons learned" or "after action reviews", just some "good job" and "congratulations" without any understanding of what the heck just happened.

The video always sparks conversation in a way that is fun and entertaining.  Most importantly, it can create alignment between supervisors on shift huddle standards without finger pointing or revisiting sensative topics or times where standards are not aligned.  It's much easier to critique the online heroes, while learning vicariously.  But the learning happens and that is what matters.

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