When I work with marketing teams to help them adopt an agile marketing methodology, I often ask if they are familiar with a few terms that are specific to agile. Terms such as scrum, sprint, marketing backlog and the daily stand-up. I’ve found that many marketers have, at a minimum, heard of these terms. But when I press them for a definition, they struggle. This is particularly the case with one of the most visible parts of agile: the daily agile marketing stand-up.
In this post, we’ll introduce the agile marketing stand-up, the role it plays in a healthy agile marketing team, explain the three basic questions that teams should answer during the daily stand-up and identify a few roadblocks you’ll want to avoid.
What is Agile Marketing?
Agile marketing seems to be all the rage in marketing circles. A 2016 survey found that a whopping 70% of marketing teams have adopted some aspects of the agile methodology.
So, what is agile marketing? Simply put, it is a flexible way of planning and executing your marketing initiatives. Of course, there’s so much more to agile marketing, but at it’s heart, agile is about taking many small steps and adapting your path based on real outcomes as opposed to creating a “big-bang” marketing strategy that outlines the steps your team should follow over the next year or two (or longer). Agile marketing is all about flexibility (hence the name!).
The Agile Marketing Stand-Up
When marketing teams begin to think about adopting agile marketing, one of the first things they hear about is the daily agile marketing stand-up. And with good reason: this is easily one of the most visible ceremonies in Scrum framework, which is one of the most popular forms of agile marketing. But what is the daily stand-up? Why is it a part of agile marketing? How does it benefit the team? And, most importantly, how do you do it? Let’s take a look.
The Agile Marketing Stand-Up Defined
As the name might imply, this is a meeting that involves all members of your agile marketing team where everyone stands-up. Yes, that’s right. Everyone stands for the entire meeting. But don’t worry. It isn’t as bad as it sounds because if you’re doing it correctly, this meeting should last no longer than 15 minutes. It is hyper-focused on helping the team understand what work was done the day before and what work the team is tackling today. That’s it. That’s the main focus of the meeting and it should move very quickly. But how do you do it? How do you pull off such a powerful meeting in such a short time? Especially if you’re in an organization that seems to “meet to death?” Read on.
Creating Effective Agile Marketing Stand-Up Meetings
The secret to effective (and fast) agile marketing stand-up meetings is only asking team members three very specific questions:
- What tasks did you work on/get done yesterday?
- What tasks are you working on today?
- Is anything blocking you from completing your tasks?
These three questions get right to the heart of what the team needs to know. Nothing more, nothing less. If you can get this information from everyone on the team, you have a pretty good idea of the status of your agile marketing sprint and what changes, if any, you need to make.
Do I Really Have to Do the Agile Marketing Stand-Up Daily?
This is one of the common questions new agile marketers ask. I believe the question gets asked because it seems we are always in meetings. And it doesn’t leave us a lot of time to get the actual work done. As a result, marketers are a little hesitant to commit to yet another meeting, let alone one that takes place daily. But this meeting is different. As noted above, you’re only focusing on the answers to three questions. But it is important to hold this meeting every day. Doing so makes sure that you always have a firm understanding of the status of the work and any problems the team is facing. In essence, with the daily stand-up meeting, no problem ever goes more than 24 hours without a chance to identify it and address it in some way. By contrast, if you don’t do your stand-ups daily, you increase the likelihood that a small issue can quickly grow into a serious problem. And almost every marketer wants a chance to correct a small problem before it becomes a major issue, right?
How to Conduct an Agile Marketing Stand-Up Meeting
Making the commitment to conduct a daily agile marketing stand-up meeting is only the first step. The next is to actually meet. I recommend holding your stand-up meeting as early in the workday as possible. The sooner you can get the team together, the better the team’s focus will be throughout the day on the tasks that are at-hand. For example, if everyone on your team arrives at work by 8:30 a.m., consider scheduling the stand-up for 9 a.m. to allow time for everyone to arrive, check-in and get in the right mindset for the day.
Next, you need to have a designated spot for your team to meet. Pick an area where everyone can stand, easily see one another, will not distract others and can see the team’s agile marketing scrum board. An ideal place is a common area or open space just outside of everyone’s offices or cubicles. If you can avoid it, stay out of conference rooms with chairs and tables. Meeting in conference rooms encourages people to settle in and get comfortable, which hurts the productivity of your meeting. And that defeats the purpose of the stand-up meeting.
You’ll want to turn to your team’s scrum master to facilitate the session. Notice I use the word “facilitate.” This is intentional. The scrum master is not a project manager. In fact, the scrum master isn’t even “in-charge” or “responsible” for the work of the team. Instead, the scrum master is simply making sure that the team is functioning and has what it needs to succeed. For the daily stand-up, you should have your scrum master kick off the session by asking someone to provide their responses to the three questions. The only other action the scrum master takes in the stand-up meeting is to note if a team member is blocked on an item. The scrum master, along with that team member, will then talk after the meeting about what can/should be done to unblock that item.
In the agile marketing stand-up meeting, the team members are ultimately responsible for driving the conversation. I recommend going around the circle and having each team member answer each of the three questions before moving on. This establishes a rhythm and prevents the conversation from venturing off into places it shouldn’t go.
Once everyone provides their update, the meeting is over. Be sure, of course, to update the scrum board to note if any tasks are completed, in-process or blocked. If any items need to be discussed further, team members involved in that discussion should peel off into a separate conversation so that all other team members can return to their work.
What to Avoid in the Agile Marketing Stand-Up Meeting
As you can see, the stand-up meeting is intended to be very focused and conducted at a rapid pace. Your goal is to get an update on the team’s work and then get back to work. To do this, you’ll need to avoid a few potholes along the way that could derail your stand-up meeting:
Avoid trying to solve problems in the meeting. When you get the team together in the daily stand-up meeting to provide updates and identify roadblocks, there is a natural tendency to try to solve the problems creating the roadblock. While we do want those problems solved, it is rare that finding a solution requires input from the entire team. As a result, you should avoid trying to solve problems in the stand-up meeting. Instead, park the discussion until the end of the stand-up. Once the meeting is finished, those that need to discuss the problem can stick around and explore the topic further, thus freeing up everyone else to get back to their day’s work.
Don’t let anyone get comfortable. As noted above, you want to avoid holding this meeting in a conference room or place where people can get comfortable. Comfort breeds longer meetings. Our goal is short, focused meetings. By keeping everyone standing, you’re sending a subtle signal that this is a quick meeting.
Start the meeting on-time. If you’ve committed to starting your agile marketing stand-up at 9 a.m. each day, you need to get started right at 9 a.m. Don’t wait for everyone to arrive. You want to reward those that are there and are ready to go. You also want to wrap this meeting up as quickly as possible. If someone isn’t on-time for the meeting, they’ll experience the awkward situation of walking in while everything is underway and trying to catch up. Hopefully, after the first time this happens, they’ll make a strong effort to get there for the start of the meeting.
Ready to Get Started With Agile Marketing?
The agile marketing stand-up meeting is one of the most visible parts of the Scrum methodology in agile. It also happens to be one of the most effective elements as well. My hope is that you have a better understanding of how to lead these sessions and set them up for success within your team’s agile marketing efforts.
Want to know more about agile marketing? Consider subscribing to Dijital Farm’s agile marketing digest, a monthly email that gives you exactly what you need to know about agile marketing and helps you stand up-to-date on the latest news and trends from the world of agile marketing. And if you need help with getting started with agile marketing in your organization, contact us to learn how we can help you quickly get your team ready for agile marketing.