How agile is your Agile Marketing?
I’ve worked with many different types of teams in my career using many different methods. Some have been what I would call “strict” Scrum, while others have incorporated hybrids like “Scrum-ban,” or some other hybrid Agile methods, and still, others had no adoption of Agile principles or methods at all. I wrote my latest book, The Agile Brand Buide to Agile Marketing Implementation because I have seen many well-intentioned organizations struggle—particularly in beginning stages—in incorporating Agile Marketing in a way that really works for them and is sustainable beyond a novel experiment. Having helped numerous companies through this initial learning stage, there are a few things I’ve learned myself which I wanted to share with others.
I also haven’t always been so strong in my beliefs that Agile principles and the methods they produce can provide the blueprint for teams to create successful marketing campaigns and initiatives. Time and again, however, I’ve seen how adopting Agile principles and practices such as Scrum can make positive impacts on teams and their results once they can overcome a few initial hurdles.
If one of your marketing colleagues has said something similar to, “We tried Agile, and it didn’t work,” I have a simple response. If it didn’t work, you weren’t doing it right. This could be that you were too rigidly applying rules that simply couldn’t fit the way your business operates, you weren’t using it for the right projects, or you weren’t using it to solve the right problem, or any number of other potential but completely understandable mistakes. And that is even beyond the fact that “doing Agile” can mean any number of things. Was it Scrum, Kanban, Scrum-ban, or something else made up by a team member and called Agile?
In this article, I’m going to discuss some things to consider if adopting Agile approaches for your marketing team isn’t working as well as it could.
Are there Agile skeptics or proponents—or both—on your team?
First, let’s gauge the room to see what people’s preconceived notions are about Agile and how open they are to go “all in” on it. As an example, you could have the most enthusiastic Scrum Master on your team, but if the product team has some naysayers or those who simply don’t follow through or understand what needs to get done, you are going to have challenges. Sometimes, this is a matter of education or coaching, and sometimes this is a matter of team dynamics and culture. Determine what the cause is and deal with it accordingly.
Even experienced Agile team members can benefit from a knowledge refresh from time to time, but find ways to make learning beneficial for everyone. If your challenges come down to a team member that is a bad fit for the team, this, unfortunately, may mean you need to drop them for the team to thrive.
To work best, Agile requires a commitment from the entire team. With everyone on board, the benefits of teamwork and collaboration that Agile principles embrace will enable the most success.
Are you consistent in your adoption of Agile methods and practices?
If you have solved for the last issue, you now have the full team on board with Agile approaches and practices. It is now time to ensure that you and your team follow through and follow your processes consistently. Doing things right is most critical when things are stressful, when there are tight deadlines, and the stakes are high. These are never reasons to abandon the process, and if you think you don’t have time to do so, just think about all the time it takes to invent a new way of doing things and explain it to all parties involved!
Whatever your reasons or your team members’ excuses, taking shortcuts is never the right approach. Ultimately, it will cause you more work, and at the moment, you are undermining your commitment to a common way of collaborating, creating, and improving: Agile.
Are you you adopting Agile in a way that doesn’t support your business?
This may sound like a contradiction to the last point, but there is a distinction between consistent adoption and adoption of approaches that simply don’t make sense for your business.
No matter what you might have heard, there is no one single way to do Agile Marketing well. In some organizations, strict adherence to Scrum practices works very well. In others, slight modifications make huge improvements to effectiveness and efficiency. While some might look down their noses at an “incorrect” interpretation of Scrum or create hybrids like “Scrum-ban,” I think it is very much in the spirit of Agile, to begin with.
I believe that the principles can apply to many types of work and many project management methods. Thus, don’t give in to the dogma many Agile practitioners do and close you and your team off to improving existing practices and approaches. It helps to know the fundamentals so that you can try those and then adjust and improve particular areas, but those fundamentals really as a starting point, not as an immovable set of rules.
Are you embracing the agility of Agile?
Finally, it is important to embrace the concept of continuous improvement (CI) because, of course, Agile is meant to be improved over time. Whether through systems of CI, through the use of Scrum practices like Retrospectives, or through other means, make sure that you are improving both your work output and the way you work.
This ability to improve both the product and the methods of delivering the product is the key thing that drew me to Agile principles in the first place. There is too much work to be done, too many expectations, and not enough time in the day to waste on work that is not optimized for both customers and the teams delivering the work. I believe that utilizing the Agile principles and applying them in meaningful ways can help teams of all sizes, disciplines, and within companies and organizations of all types to consistently and sustainably achieve their goals.
I hope these ideas help as you and your team continue to improve your Agile Marketing adoption and practices.
The Agile Brand Blog – Greg Kihlström Customer Experience & Digital Transformation