Agile All The Way: September AMA Indy Luncheon Recap
By: Eva Jackson
As marketing leaders, we need to be forward thinking. Evolving a marketing strategy requires intentional focus on the things our teams can do to improve quality of work, drive growth, and exceed our goals. However, it may often feel like our minds are consumed with the day to day happenings of our marketing teams. Did Steven finish that report that was due yesterday? Did Mary send that email newsletter today? Oh crap -- did Andrew just say that the website is down?!
AMA Indy invited Mitch Causey, director of marketing at Lessonly, to share how they use Agile practices to drive better collaboration and streamline expectations around how work gets done, ultimately keeping their team more focused on projects that will move the needle. Agile emphasizes continual delivery of smaller portions of work over projects with larger interconnected tasks that may span weeks or months (which is traditionally called waterfall-style management).
Here are a few takeaways from Mitch’s presentation that you can apply today to create a more efficient and more productive team:
- Create constraints that will allow for creative freedom. Mitch started off his presentation by comparing Agile functions to bumpers on a bowling lane. Without them, you may be able to try some new tricks, but there’s a pretty good chance your ball is going in the gutter. With the constraints of bumpers, you have the ability to get pretty creative with your bowl, but you still know you’ll hit the pins. The rules of Agile create similar constraints for your marketing tactics. By creating a set of process-oriented rules that everyone is expected to follow, you still have the ability to collaborate and have fun with your work without knowing that it’ll end up in the gutter. Let’s be honest: we’ve all spent way too long on a creative idea, only to have it fail miserably when released to the market.
- Plan quarterly as a team, and then revisit that plan weekly and daily. Gone are the days when you can create an entire year’s worth of marketing projects and expect them to actually get done. The marketing world moves too quickly, so Mitch suggested setting quarterly marketing strategies and tactics, and then revisiting those strategies on a weekly and daily basis. At Lessonly, the team plans all of their quarterly projects on a Trello board, and then uses those quarterly Trello cards to plan weekly project sprints as a team. Those weekly tasks are then discussed on a daily basis in 15-minute standups, which hold the team accountable for progressing on their planned work.
- Find a project management tool that everyone uses. You can’t expect to execute on marketing work if people don’t have a centralized way to track progress and collaborate on deliverables. By finding a project management tool that everyone actually uses, you immediately see better collaboration on marketing work. As mentioned, Lessonly uses Trello to collaborate on tasks and feedback, which visualizes work in a Kanban-style project board. However, your team may benefit from a more project-based tool like Basecamp or Teamwork, or you may consider using a tool that other departments may frequently use, like Jira.
- Find a way to streamline non-marketing requests. Nothing kills a marketer’s flow like someone walking up to their desk with a “quick” copy or design request. One easy way to improve productivity on your team is by finding a way to streamline those one-off requests. On Mitch’s team, anyone who has a request from marketing is asked to fill out a form with their request, which is then routed to their Trello board to be prioritized in the next week’s sprint. And another major value to visualizing your workflow with a project management tool is that it gives you the ability to show others what work will be compromised if your team stops what it is doing to accommodate their request.
Agile practices can foster a mindset of continual improvement and rapid problem solving on your marketing team, and Mitch and the Lessonly crew are an excellent example of what it means to be “Agile all the way.” If you’re interested in learning more about Agile methodologies, check out Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, by Jeff Sutherland, or Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, by Jake Knapp.
Eva Jackson is the senior marketing manager at Emplify, an Indianapolis-based tech company that provides employee engagement insights to business leaders. She is also the founder of Agile Marketing Indy, an area networking meetup that encourages conversation around how to integrate Agile into the marketing workflow. Connect with Eva on Twitter.