“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Words of wisdom from the notorious Mike Tyson that apply as much to the dynamics of a marketing team (albeit figuratively) as they do in the boxing ring.
When the team feels the pressure of customer requirements, deadlines and members’ individual preferences – it becomes increasingly difficult to get everyone aligned on the ‘how’ of things.
While plans seem to disappear in the face of ‘crunch time’, having a consistent Agile process across the team allows its members to deliver despite tough situations.
In a newly released report on the State of Agile Marketing, 45% of marketers polled say having consistent practices has been key to their successful adoption of Agile.
Along with online training and webinars (33%) and implementing an Agile project management tool (32%), consistent practices are essential to helping marketers keep their daily tasks flowing smoothly towards a common organizational or departmental goal.
In fact, consistency is also key in building trust and accountability among team members, two factors indispensable to team success.
Whether you’re a manager or a team member, the tips below will help you establish the consistent practices that form the foundation for a successful transition to Agile marketing. Tackle them one at a time in the coming weeks and you’ll be on your way.
Collaborate on a Team Charter
To create a consensus for changing a process, teams must find a way to agree on their common direction and goals. The team charter, or working agreement, is a way to verbalize what the team values as they work together.
To help get people’s brains going (especially if this is their first time creating a charter), try having everyone brainstorm answers to the following:
Some behaviors you might ultimately document in the charter are:
- Being on time
- Keeping meetings to a minimum
- Keeping an open mind
- Ways the team votes on ideas
- Commitment to continuously improve your work
In some way, a successful team process sits upon the values the group decides it wants to include in the charter. If the process doesn’t support the agreed-upon values, it’s not doing its job.
It can be tempting to put the burden of creating the working agreement on team leads, but when it comes to coming up with a process structure for a group of people, everyone who will follow the same process must participate in its creation.
If there is no buy-in from all members of the team, it will be very difficult to ensure process consistency. Process creation also needs to be as transparent as possible, so everyone can understand it and get on board.
Introduce Explicit, Accessible Policies
Once you’ve got process rules in place, make sure everyone on your team, including new recruits, has consistent access to this team “rulebook”.
Keeping a knowledge base of all iterations of your process might be a bit much (although I’ve seen it done). But at the very least, the current version should live in a visible and accessible place for reference purposes.
That way, if there’s ever any doubt about the process rules the team has agreed to, there’s a single source of truth to ask.
For example, if an Agile team is using a physical Scrum or Kanban board, the policies for each section of the board can be written on a sticky note at the bottom of any given column. The sticky doesn’t move, and it’s only changed if the process rule is changed (and the team agrees to that change).
More general rules concerning day-to-day principles of work must also be made visible in some way.
Having a document on someone’s computer doesn’t count as visibility!.
Instead, it’s best to keep your team rules posted on the wall somewhere in the physical space that you share.
Continuously Improve Process
Unfortunately, establishing process practices “once and for all” ends up clashing with reality’s changing requirements.
Day-to-day process practices can become outdated or inefficient in many different ways, such as:
- The addition of new expertise in the team
- A team member leaving
- A new dependency
- A new customer requirement
- A new project
Anyone of these (and many more causes!) can render your process irrelevant to the way the team works. And these shifts won’t go unnoticed by the team.
However, team members often feel that they can’t speak up, so they begin ignoring process to keep up with their tasks.
Instead of letting them stagnate like this, continually improving upon daily process rules keeps the team motivated, reinforces their commitment to consistent practices, and creates the conditions required to produce high-quality work.
The continuous improvement mindset helps the team tailor their process structure to the way they work now, instead of having to bend outdated rules.
When reality and required process just don’t fit together anymore, discuss it with the team and pivot to a new best practice if needed.
Never Sacrifice Quality for Consistency
If you’ve had the same process structure in your organization for the past 10 years, consistency may not seem like an issue. But without opportunities to improve the way things are done, individuals begin to surreptitiously make their own alterations.
Even without these unseen inconsistencies created by the team, it’s important not to confuse process consistency with process rigidity. The former can be an extremely positive factor in your team’s success, while the latter can block your team members (and the organization) from achieving maximum potential.
Encourage your team members to experiment with process transparently, even if it means changing up a few things that have historically been set in stone.
While changing these rules can mean putting in extra effort to become consistent in your process again, the potential increases in efficiency and quality are well worth it.
Take your team to even greater heights by giving them regular opportunities to suggest improvements to the team process (every month, every sprint, or as often as feels organic for your group.)
If you’re starting out with your adoption of Agile in marketing, or just want to be on the same page with other team members, don’t underestimate the power of a consistent process.
Abiding by the same rules can do wonders for expectation management across teams and, eventually, the pace and quality at which you bring live work to your customers.
Monica Georgieff is a Lean and Kanban in Marketing evangelist, author of “Lean and Agile Marketing with Kanban” and international guest speaker. She is the former Head of Marketing at Kanbanize, a leading vendor of Kanban software for process management, a contributor at chiefmartec.com, and an Agile Coach and Trainer with AgileSherpas. Currently, Monica helps enterprise marketing departments and digital marketing agencies bring Lean and Agile methodologies into their process.