Communication is a powerful tool that can skyrocket your productivity or destroy your sanity. The traditional ways we communicate are notorious for their lack of active listening, overly (or not enough) detailed documentation, and hierarchical information-sharing structures.
As marketers, we know what this results in. Over the years, we’ve all had our fair share of annoying misunderstandings, delays, errors, and last-minute requests all thanks to a lack of proper communication.
That’s a major issue since the success of any project or campaign relies strongly on effective communication channels.
But as more and more teams transition to Agile marketing, the way they communicate is changing too. Agile or not, you can “steal” some of the best practices of Agile communication and test their power to improve the way your team communicates and operates.
Whether you’ve already established some Agile practices that you look to enhance or you just want to test the waters, this article is for you. Below, we break down why and how even non-Agile marketers can use Agile communication techniques to their benefit.
Common Communication Challenges Marketers Face
Unfortunately, most marketers face the consequences of poor communication daily. That tends to leave us feeling frustrated, confused, and unmotivated to do our work. It’s important to be aware of the common communication challenges marketers experience and use them as a starting point for improvement.
The more communication channels a team has, the harder it is for everyone to communicate and share knowledge. But most importantly, it’s extremely difficult to keep track of everything since it is spread across multiple channels.
Big teams are more likely to struggle with getting valuable information across. As a result, there’s a greater chance of miscommunication. This leads to delays and errors that slow down value delivery and end up hurting our customers in the long run.
Poorly Organized Communication
Organizational documentation is effective only when it’s written well. Poor documentation can easily be misunderstood or confusing, creating roadblocks instead of preventing them. You can avoid this pitfall through intentional knowledge sharing through a well-managed database or a well-orchestrated structure of channels. This means having the important information out in the open, visible, and accessible to every team member involved in the work.
When communication is purposely restricted so information can’t flow to where it’s needed, you have a silo on your hands. These are a source of daily frustration and difficult communication for marketers and everyone else in an organization. Important information “lives” behind the closed doors of certain departments, preventing teams from collaborating and innovating.
Individual team members can become siloed as well by concentrating on their own to-do lists, sacrificing the opportunity to collaborate with others for best results.
What is Agile Communication
Agile is built on the idea of quickly adapting to new circumstances while focusing on stakeholder value, so it's no surprise that communication is foundational. Agile teams need to know when things change, what their stakeholders need, when someone is blocked, etc.
Luckily, Agile communication aims to streamline the process of conveying information through face-to-face communication, straightforward documentation, and conversations that are limited only to what’s absolutely necessary.
Agile communication acknowledges that most people are too busy to read in-depth information. Therefore, by nature, Agile communicators simplify and summarize, assisting their team members in swiftly and easily understanding the necessary information. At the same time, however, it uses visualization tools like Kanban boards to ensure everyone has access to information at a moment’s notice.
Agile places a high priority on improved stakeholder collaboration and information sharing to ensure alignment and support rapid decision-making and process changes.
Compared to other approaches, Agile communication ensures easier and faster reactions to changes. This main concept is there to enable teams to modify their work more efficiently without wasting too much time and resources on the pivot.
Differences Between Traditional and Agile Communication
In-person conversations may not be made a priority by team members.
A face-to-face conversation is valued in Agile communication as the most effective method for exchanging information.
Priorities are communicated in lengthy documents or not defined at all and are not easily accessible and visible to everyone.
Priorities are communicated through visualization reducing the need for unnecessary communication.
Documentation plays a significant role in traditional approaches. It's common for teams to create a large number of complex documents and status reports without considering their actual needs.
Agile documentation purposefully keeps things straightforward and gives just enough information. Agile artifacts are frequently quick to read and only provide the most important details.
Usually, team members attend many mandatory meetings, regardless of whether they’re valuable or necessary.
Agile communication promotes fewer meetings. But when there's a need for one, it is brief and only those participants are invited who will contribute to and gain something from the discussion. Agile meetings offer all the advantages of face-to-face interaction without taking up unnecessary time. The format is meant to increase productivity.
Benefits of Agile Communication
What’s so great about Agile communication is that you don’t have to be Agile to apply the practices. It’s actually an excellent starting point for non-Agile marketers who want to experiment and explore new methods to better manage their campaigns and workflows. So, get a taste of what Agile communication can bring to the table and decide for yourself if these benefits are worthwhile.
Efficient Method of Conveying Information
Agile holds narrowly-focused meetings to foster better communication. In the best case scenario, Agile communication happens face-to-face. However, given the fact that many teams are distributed or remote, the meeting formats can be held online and be as effective as in-person.
For example, daily standup meetings are a great way to get a status update from team members and identify any roadblocks early on. This meeting format takes place every day and should be no longer than 15 minutes.
For people who share tasks across time zones, this is ideal. Such brief sessions will improve teamwork and proper information and communication flow. In addition, the short timeframe allows people to focus only on important information.
Helps You Become More Effective
Agile communication helps you adjust and improve your workflow based on relevant data. A great way to analyze the success of your recently launched campaign would be having a retrospective.
In these meetings, the team gathers to go over what went well and what didn’t during a phase of the project or a sprint and identify new opportunities for improvement. As a result, you’re able to be more effective in the future, constantly finding ways to improve.
Communication focused on actual value will reveal opportunities for teams to collaborate and create even greater outcomes for the business. This happens by creating an environment where individuals are encouraged to freely share ideas or call out potential bottlenecks regarding the workflow.
Agile dedicated meetings focused around the value such as standup, sprint planning, retrospectives, etc. are a great way to achieve meaningful communication. As a result of increased collaboration, overall efficiency and value will rise.
The point of having Agile communication is to support the iteration cycles and improvements based on feedback. Agile marketing promotes releasing small pieces of work instead of spending months developing big-bang campaigns.
The frequent feedback that you receive from clients and stakeholders can help you react and handle changes without turbulence. The feedback can also reveal where you can improve and ultimately deliver valuable products and campaigns.
It’s important to discover how everything you do supports and benefits your clients. An Agile approach to communication can help teams see the big picture and align their activities with high-level organizational objectives. The Agile mentality fosters collaboration and brings people together around a shared purpose.
Agile communication eliminates barriers between people from different functional areas. Agile promotes creating channels of communication that connect cross-departmental perspectives and knowledge, ultimately spreading it across the organization.
Small cross-functional teams with T-shaped marketers who possess all the necessary abilities to accomplish their goals are encouraged so they can collaborate with other departments and create value for clients and stakeholders.
The Agile model of communication brings functions like marketing, sales, and finance together around a common objective. As a result, information flows between these departments.
Best Practices for Clear Agile Communication
Agile communication techniques are not limited just to Agile projects and teams. You can apply them to any circumstance no matter the methodology within your organization. However, Agile is far more effective when scaled.
Streamline Communication With Agile Meetings
Effective team communication is the key to overcoming the difficulties caused by unpredictable situations in short timeframes.
Iteration is the foundation of Agile, which involves frequent check-ins between stakeholders and team members to report on progress and agree on the next actions.
You can streamline your communication by having dedicated meetings like the standups we mentioned earlier in this article. These Agile meetings promote focused knowledge sharing and reduce the amount of pointless emails and documentation.
It’s crucial to encourage the team to seek answers to issues that prevent them from being productive. True information sharing will be accomplished if team members develop the practice of imparting insightful, forward-looking observations about their work.
Encourage the team to ask questions at all times. Never brush off a concern or make someone feel bad for expressing one. Clarifications, discoveries, and even process improvements result from questions. Keep in mind that it's acceptable to not know the answers up front and to find them later.
Eliminate Unnecessary Communication
“This meeting could have been an email” has become a cultural meme for a reason. We’ve all sat in agonizing hour-long meetings which feel pointless. These conversations that don’t add value and instead take away from productivity should be limited so the team can focus on what’s important.
Communication should support teams to be more efficient. Don’t make people sit in meetings that don’t add value. If the information can get across faster and easier, do so.
Make Work Status Visible
If you can’t see it, you can’t manage it. Moreover, you can’t improve it. Projects frequently move quickly, and details are always changing. A lack of clear visibility into a project's state will cause you to overlook important information and fall behind, which will delay the project's progress.
To function effectively Agile communication requires visibility and transparency. Each team member must be aware of what is currently happening and have a clear understanding of the project milestones and how the work contributes to them.
Make the project status always available and accessible. Think about using Kanban boards, or task boards to visualize the work and make it simple for team members to quickly understand their roles, responsibilities, and work status.
Hold Your Team Accountable
Project managers are typically responsible for communication management. Agile, however, gives the team members who are performing the task the responsibility and freedom to communicate and share information. After all, those who are actually executing the work are the most familiar with its specifics.
Ensure that your team has the resources necessary to efficiently communicate any important information. It’s the team lead’s role to ensure teams are effectively interacting by organizing productive meetings and removing roadblocks.
Agile Communication Is Just a Piece of the Puzzle
The team's ability to communicate effectively with one another is essential to a project's success, no matter whether it's a project that is managed in a traditional or Agile way. So, whatever end of that spectrum you find yourself in (or smack in the middle), you stand to gain from applying Agile techniques to how you interact.
But Agile communication is just a piece of the puzzle. Ready to piece the whole picture together?