Why marketing departments should embrace business agility

Group of practitioners stood around white board with plans for business discussing their business agility

Enterprise agility is almost mandatory today. Digital disruption and the rate of change is stimulating product development, raising customer service expectations and altering the technology landscape forever.

Any organization unable to read, respond and adapt to these conditions won’t survive in the new world order. 

This means that embedding agility throughout an organization is more important than ever before. The good news is that it is achievable — but only if the principles of focusing on value, eliminating waste, working as a team and constantly learning and adapting are universally applied.

No easy solutions

Don’t be fooled though; there is no silver bullet. In fact, what at first appears to be “low hanging fruit” — a department ripe for fast and engaging transformation which could literally change its world — may turn out to be much more of a challenge.

This was certainly my experience when engaged to work with a marketing department. Although I almost instantly identified simple solutions to a big issue, it was only when we got started that the full extent of the problems became evident.

Action for change

In this particular marketing department, the main issues involved lack of forward planning, lack of teamwork, silos and reactive behaviours causing delays and rework. There was no holistic thinking, work coordination, planning ahead or checking iteratively on progress: a situation which had created a surprise-driven, panic-based culture, which was resistant to change and highly stressful for team members — and, unfortunately, all too familiar to me.

The key to resolving these symptoms was two-fold: giving visibility to the work (using either digital tools or manual walls) and then coordinating across teams to make it happen. This not only highlighted the bottlenecks and blockers, but also identified the priorities.

Additional steps focused on:

  • Reforming teams to become more cross-functional; so when work was defined and planned, the team understood all of the elements and operated appropriately instead of missing steps or outcomes that caused wider problems
  • Building feedback loops and re-planning cycles to ensure progress was regularly checked and the plan updated as necessary. Putting this in the public domain meant the entire team could orientate themselves regularly with the plan, priorities and next steps
  • Putting systems in place to enable meaningful conversations between team members also meant that communication and collaboration went through the roof!

Allowing this approach was essential to establish repeatable behaviours and a culture of continuous improvement based on retrospectives; enabling the teams to grow in self-awareness and maturing their abilities to learn together.

Benefits of agility

Being open to change, adaptive in thinking and prepared to learn is all part of an agile mindset, which helps organizations deal with constant change. Visual planning and working collaboratively as a team, keeping the focus on holistic values and being ready to flex and adjust in this way is essential. After all, the degree to which technology, teams and customers are changing is only going to accelerate.

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