If you want to be agile, you may need to change your company’s culture

Adapting agile practices at the team level may lead to some process improvements and efficiency, but agility is not just for the worker-bees – it’s about organizational change.

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If you want to jump on board with the agile marketing bandwagon, that’s great! But before you do, realize that your company culture may need a substantial overhaul before you can really reap the benefits.

Before embarking on an agile transformation, you need to be culturally ready to embrace a new way of working. Adapting agile practices at the team level may lead to some process improvements and efficiency, but agility is not just for the worker-bees – it’s about organizational change.

If you’re a small marketing group with just a handful of people, chances are you’re naturally working in a culture of agility – especially if you’re in an innovative or startup environment. In those cases, jumping to the practices of agile, like Scrum, Kanban or Scrumban are fine.

However, if you’re a larger enterprise that’s been working in waterfall for years with siloed teams and top-down hierarchy, cultural readiness is going to be key for agile marketing to be successful.

I’ve seen many companies try out agile, but the ones that are doing it well realize that it’s not just for the team – everyone at the company, whether they are on a delivery team or not, needs to be ready to change the way they’ve always worked.

Build empowering teams

A lot of companies focus their energy on spinning up new teams as quickly as they can to say they’re “agile.”

Being on a team doesn’t make you an agile marketer. What makes it agile is being on a team where you’re empowered to make decisions, innovate, learn and adapt without outside interference.

For a lot of companies, the above scenario is pretty scary, but what’s even scarier to me is hiring talented people and not giving them any space to create or innovate.

To be ready to build an empowering team, the organization must trust that the people they hired are capable.

Now this isn’t saying there are no boundaries and that agile marketing sets a team of people loose to do whatever they want! An agile marketing team has a shared purpose and roadmap that comes from stakeholders, but how they approach the work is up to them.

Create generalist roles

Agile marketing is all about getting the highest priority work done as a team, not resource utilization. At the end of the day, someone could be utilized 150 percent and get a lot of work started but nothing done that’s usable.

When companies stick to very stringent traditional titles, people are afraid to cross the line into another person’s territory. Unfortunately, what this leads to is the above – a focus on utilization rather than value.

So to set up teams for success with agile marketing, roles need to become more generalized. Sure, the graphic designer will be the primary person that does that work, but maybe others on the team can pitch in and help.

In agile marketing, we call this becoming a “T-shaped” player, meaning you have a primary skill and two other skills that you can help with when needed for the team to meet its’ goals.

Get rid of processes that cause delay

Organizations must look at how work flows in – from idea to delivery – to understand where bottlenecks happen.

Every time that work sits idle waiting for approvals, or passing the baton from one team to the next means waiting in the queue, is called a cost of delay and a really expensive problem!

If work takes you six months from idea to delivery, but 90 percent of that time it’s stuck on someone’s desk or waiting for a person to be available that is waste!

So to be successful at agile marketing, that waste needs to be minimized. A lot of that happens by cutting out unnecessary documentation and approvals and giving the team more autonomy and authority.

If you’re about to embark on an agile marketing journey, that’s fantastic news! Just make sure that your company culture will allow for empowered teams, generalist roles and is ready to re-think current processes that cause delays.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Stacey Ackerman
Stacey knows what it’s like to be a marketer, after all, she’s one of the few agile coaches and trainers that got her start there. After graduating from journalism school, she worked as a content writer, strategist, director and adjunct marketing professor. She became passionate about agile as a better way to work in 2012 when she experimented with it for an ad agency client. Since then she has been a scrum master, agile coach and has helped with numerous agile transformations with teams across the globe. Stacey speaks at several agile conferences, has more certs to her name than she can remember and loves to practice agile at home with her family. As a lifelong Minnesotan, she recently relocated to North Carolina where she’s busy learning how to cook grits and say “y’all."

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