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Just a Book, Part 2: Honing Agility

Courtney Beasley

Courtney Beasley

Hopefully after last week’s recap, hacking has taken on a new meaning for you. Likewise, agile, once defined as athletic flexibility, will take on a new meaning as well.

For all intents and purposes, in marketing, “agility” refers to preferred methods of project management that break work into small tasks that can be easily reevaluated and make for adaptable marketing plans. Small tasks and frequent assessment sounds like the ideal work flow; however, before the 21st century, marketers relied on waterfall methods to complete projects. This meant that one task had to be completed in order to begin the next. Sounds good in theory, right? Wrong. The waterfall method leads to bottlenecks and the inability to easily backtrack or experiment with new ideas.

Enter the “Agile Marketing Manifesto,” proposed in San Francisco in 2012. This new way of work suggested that people value small experiments over large bets, data over conventions, intimate consumer tribes over mass impersonal marketing and transparency over official posturing. It was with this proposal that marketers could step into the role of software creators and start effectively marketing in a digital world.

What exactly did this manifesto suggest marketers change about their management styles? First they suggested the end of waterfall management and the integration of either Scrum, Kanban, or a lethal combination of both. Scrum is broken down into phases of sprints, stand-ups, backlogs and retrospectives, while Kanban helps people visualize work by breaking down tasks into three columns; to-do, in progress and done, which can be broken into subcategories as needed. By breaking down tasks that allow management to revisit, evaluate, backlog and put a time limitation on, combining both styles will increase agility and allow for rich experimentation, leading to transformative ideas.

Why should more marketers use Scrum and Kanban?

Aside from being agile and lean management methods, what makes them superior to old methods of management? Scrum increases efficiency and gives you the competitive advantage with agile sprint cycles. Agile sprint cycles begin when a bigger tasks are broken into a smaller tasks called sprints. The sprints are then organized into a backlog, which can be continuously rearranged based on shifting priorities. Then, the fun begins. Prior to a sprint cycle, 15 minute standups are held to discuss the trajectory of the sprint. Standups are concise, quick and efficient affairs. Any issues are immediately solved or put into the backlog. Once the sprint is complete teams celebrate small victories and meet to reflect on what went right and what could’ve been improved.

During all of this Kanban charts are MVPs for helping teams visualize what’s being worked on, what needs to be worked on and what is done. Because of this comprehensive and transparent work flow chart, your people can adapt a pull mentality. Rather than overwhelming team members with work in the beginning, they can focus on completing their task at hand and pull in more work as their own time frees up. Not only is this efficient, but teams will be more empowered to take ownership of their work.

At the end of the day, Scrum, Kanban or Scrumban lead to faster management, not faster workers, which in the long run frees you from extraneous tasks and eliminates bottlenecks.

Check back next Tuesday for when we go over how to use innovation to hack marketing from communications to experiences!

Want more content like this? Learn more about Just a Book with Scott Brinker here.