There’s a big misconception, especially in marketing, that agile is a new practice for the team. Some think that if the team gets trained on agile marketing, they can work differently, with new meetings and tools,and reap the benefits of agility: speed-to-market, customer-centricity and team satisfaction, just to name a few.
This theory is fundamentally flawed because agility is a mindset and a new culture with strategies that support how you achieve the new desired state. When agility is expected to happen without any leadership changes to support new ways of working, the benefits are limited.
Agile means everyone — from the junior copywriter to the CMO — must change the way they work. Some companies may already be very agile in their culture, so not as much transformation is needed. However, most large organizations have worked in a siloed “command and control” structure for decades, meaning they have a bigger mountain to move.
The need for agility to take place at all levels in the company is why we created the roles of Stakeholders and Practice Leads in the Agile Marketing Navigator framework. This article takes a deeper dive into those roles and how they can help to navigate agile marketing.
Leading a practice vs. managing people
In the traditional marketing organizational structure, managers managed people and assigned work. With agile marketing, we’ve changed this entire paradigm so that work comes in a strategic and prioritized way and the team is empowered to deliver on those priorities.
When set up properly, an agile marketing team is cross-functional, meaning they have people delivering work from many different disciplines. The goal is for them to run like a small startup, even inside a large company.
What’s shocking for many marketers is that setting up a team cross-functionally doesn’t mean that the reporting structure of the players needs to change. I strongly advise against that because you want to create a team that can work more autonomously.
So if you’re a manager with employees on an agile marketing team, how does your role change? This can be a really sensitive question for people because it is a huge shift from the old way.
Essentially, you no longer assign work or manage the work itself. Your job is now to empower team members to be more independent, ensuring they have the right tools, skills, training and coaching to hone their craft.
As a manager, you may have people who report to you who are now dispersed across several agile teams. While you may feel like you’ve completely lost control, you haven’t. You need to think about it differently, and that’s where the role of Practice Lead comes into play.
As a Practice Lead, you’ll want to set up a regular cadence with everyone who reports to you, called a Community of Practice. This role is more inspirational than managerial. You bring people together to become a strong, united practice that masters its craft. You’ll look to team members for their ideas and opinions. You’ll facilitate and unite this group, empowering them to be leaders of their craft on each agile team.
Stakeholder as collaborator vs. requester
If you rely on marketers to produce work for you, your role is a Stakeholder. Stakeholders can come from several different places, such as product marketing, sales or a line of business.
In the old way of working, you probably went to a department manager and told them what you needed. Or you submitted a brief, which someone picked up to interpret your request.
We are getting away from the requester/receiver dynamic with agile marketing. This has been the number one reason marketers are burnt out — the workload is endless if anyone can request work. And how do we know we’re working on the right work at the right time?
As a Stakeholder in agile marketing, you have a critical role to play. You need to communicate your needs to the team’s Marketing Owner, who will determine the priority of your request and if it aligns with the team’s business goals and Guidepoint.
Your ideas will be discussed rather than your request submitted, as agile marketing is about collaboration. Also, the team will determine the best way to deliver what you need, so communicating desired outcomes, not desired output, is really important.
Within the Agile Marketing Navigator framework, we always encourage Stakeholders to participate in the Collaborative Planning Workshop with the team quarterly. This is a way to work together and gain alignment.
The other place where Stakeholders need to be active is during the Team Showcase. This is a great opportunity to see what the team is working on and how campaigns are performing and offer feedback for upcoming work.
The critical thing to remember with agile marketing is to work with the team, viewing them as your partner in creating the right solution to drive the business outcomes you need.
With the roles of Practice Lead and Stakeholder, you’ll have the right people in place to successfully navigate agile marketing.
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