How to Stay Agile Over the Long Term

With its promise of greater productivity, satisfaction, and business alignment, it's easy to get excited about Agile. No wonder 51% of marketers now report using some form agility to manage their work.

But, what happens after the Agile honeymoon is over?

Once the thoughtful preparation and implementation are behind them, how can marketing departments maintain agility in the long run? 

We asked the most experienced AgileSherpas coaches and trainers to tune in with practical advice for making agility happen, and even more importantly, how to make it last. Here's what they recommend.

Train Your Leaders First

Evolution doesn't happen if we stick with our status quo. It only takes place when we inject fresh knowledge and gather new experiences inside our organizations. 

When it comes to Agile implementations, one of the biggest obstacles is the lack of expertise and education. If we expect our senior leaders to lead the way to agility, they should overcome that obstacle first. 

Their leadership approach should reflect the core Agile values and principles, which means they need some training. 

Our senior Sherpas back up this statement with the following recommendations based on years of qualified experience:

Agile Trainer and Coach Monica Georgieff and President and Co-founder of AgileSherpas, Andrea Fryrear share the same vision for keeping up with Agile efforts through adequate Agile leadership training

Without leadership support at the outset, Agile transformations can derail in the short term and long term. Leaders should embody Agile values and principles and model them for new teams,” shares Monica.

For years, Andrea Fryrear has been introducing agility into rigid enterprise organizations seeking greater flexibility. Her efforts have helped many teams reach the summit of marketing agility in a step-by-step way, through gradual development. 

Train your leaders, not just your teams! Don't ask your teams to reorganize, adopt new tools, and totally change the way they work without making similar demands of your middle and upper management. If plans are still drafted as huge, monolithic waterfall epics but you expect your Agile teams to implement them in Sprints, you're going to run into serious disconnects,” Andrea believes. 

According to the 4th Annual State of Agile Marketing Report, over two-thirds of Agile marketers invest in a combination of training and coaching for Agile leadership, as well as to prepare team leads to take on Agile roles such as Scrum Master and Product Owner.

AgileSherpa’s trainer, coach, and partner Raviv Turner advises applying the 70-20-10 rule to any internal learning development pursuits. He appeals to marketers to never stop training. He believes teams need coaching and on-the-job experience in order for them to build Agile muscle memory.

So, as you go, make sure you provide additional resources, plan training sessions, and offer workshops backed up with practical application, so the new knowledge can be used and really stick. 

Start With A Clear Strategy

If you’re going to implement Agile successfully, then you need to clarify what strategy you’ll be applying to make it happen. Taking on a marketing agility approach helps teams to align with organizational goals, see the bigger picture, and remain flexible rather than remain fixed. 

According to one of our Sherpas based in South Africa, Elizabeth Venter, “you need to start with a clear strategy about what you want to achieve with marketing agility” before you start down that path at all. 

She recommends defining clear business outcomes with measurements, choosing a pilot that will allow you to deliver value while you experiment, and learning the Agile ways of working before trying to implement them as appropriate first steps.

Elizabeth also suggests experimenting and finding what works best for your team instead of going by the book and “when something doesn’t perform, pivot without mercy or guilt.”

To be more aligned with the Agile frameworks, principles, and values, you need an Agile strategy for best results. Generally, this means being flexible and depending on a shared vision and purpose within the organization. 

Commit and Oversee the Transformation

Nowadays, more and more marketers are undertaking Agile transformations. However, to prepare and set the scene for remarkable results, organizations need to focus on two core elements: commitment and execution.

AgileSherpas senior trainer and coach Colleen Dunn Hartoonian focuses on responsibility. She encourages organizations to have an Agile champion who's dedicated and committed to overseeing the transformation process. 

Colleen noticed that, oftentimes, organizations have people who are partially dedicated to overseeing a transformation, but since they're still responsible for other projects, Agile implementation gets deprioritized due to other work.

Agile will hardly work for your marketing department if you don’t have a strong, dedicated leader to oversee the invested efforts and implementation processes. 

Define & Measure

Forming a vision and a clear definition of what your goals are in the long run will most likely guarantee your team a successful implementation. In addition, determine how you'll track the impact of Agile in the marketing department and what measurements you’ll keep tabs on to define that impact.

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Our experienced Sherpa Amanda Hembree shares her views on the topic: 

Create a clear understanding of what you want to improve and communicate it broadly. Start thinking about outcomes, not just deliverables. Know going into it that this isn't a small change, but a transformation of how you work as teams and how the work flows to teams.”

Clarify and align the goals with the leaders so they can guide the team towards them effectively. Keep the focus on marketing outcomes by capturing the level of efficiency based on a set of KPIs. 

Clarify Your Purpose

Define your Agile “Why” before you jump into the “What” and “How." Having a clear mental image of your purpose will seriously back up and support you through the shaky moments of any Agile implementation. 

Lisa Rocchetti, Agile trainer and coach, shares this valuable advice with Agile enthusiasts: 

“Take a purpose over process approach. Get hyper clear on the business goals you've historically struggled to achieve and then engage an agile consultant to help you understand which Agile methods will best help you achieve your ambition.” 

Dive In

In the end, all the planning, strategizing, and education can’t prepare you for every scenario that can come up along the way. Our Head of Training and Delivery, Ross Libby says “Just start. There is no right way or path to take. Not starting and indecision is the greatest barrier”.

Don’t hesitate to dive into Agile ways of working. “Acknowledge where you are and build from there,” advises Pam Ashly, another AgileSherpas coach. After all, Agile equals going with the flow, responding to changes, and being adaptive to whatever situation is served to you. 

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Keep Going

Marketing agility is challenging but as ups and downs come and go, teams manage to learn more about their ways of doing things and adapt them to fit the Agile methodology.

It is best for organizations to create their own guidelines to follow based on their structure and function. Applying our expert advice will only add to spotting your best practices of operating.

As our Sherpas said, Agile transformation can derail in the short and long term. Training the leaders, crafting a clear purpose, goal, and strategy, commitment and determination will enhance your Agile expedition by aligning everyone involved in the process. 

Download the 5th State of Agile Marketing Report. Explore the state of Agile marketing in 2022