The Importance of Retrospective Rigor for Agile Marketers

Marketers are already in too many meetings; why should they keep up with some ridiculous Agile thing that just takes up space on their calendar?

Andrea Fryrear

October 23, 2019

Spinning up new Agile marketing teams comes with a host of challenges. We need to adapt existing frameworks to apply to our particular challenges, the existing team structure is rarely conducive to agility, and we almost never have a dedicated Scrum Master-like role.

The first two issues become obvious pretty quickly, and many teams take steps to address them before they begin work.

The final problem, however, tends to go unaddressed. In the midst of a flurry of change, who has time to hire or appoint someone to spend most of their time managing a process that’s supposed to create self-organizing teams?

There’s obviously a whole lot more we could unpack within this problem, but here I want to concentrate on the impact this lack of a dedicated Agile champion has on the all-important retrospective meeting.

Leaderless Retrospectives

Without someone who’s specifically tasked with leading retrospectives for a new Agile marketing team, they tend to go something like this:

Traditional manager: “So, how’s everybody feeling? What do you think about this last sprint?”

Agile marketing team members: nod heads “Ya...good.”

uncomfortable silence

Traditional manager: “Ok great. See you all at sprint planning.”

It’s even worse if teams are distributed, because you might not even be able to see your teammates’ head nods. Marketers are already in too many meetings; why should they keep up with some ridiculous Agile thing that just takes up space on their calendar?

As you can imagine, this kind of meeting quickly gets dropped.

Applying Retrospective Rigor

Of course, dropping the retrospective or allowing it to limp along in this sad state is a sure fire recipe for failure. Even if you can’t hire a full time Agile Lead or Scrum Master, there are ways to maintain rigor around your retro.

  • Rotate facilitation responsibilities. Draw from your pool of team members to take turns leading the retrospective meeting. If they’re unsure about how to plan one, you can give them a list of possible formats to choose from. Direct them to helpful resources, and make it clear what the expectations are for conducting a successful retro.
  • Compare retrospective data. Document the outcomes of your retrospectives, and revisit them in the first part of the meeting. If the same issues continue to recur, talk about what’s going on, and what needs to be done. Digital tools make this simple, but even a photo of a whiteboard can be useful for remembering what went on in previous meetings.
  • Get the right tools. If you have even one distributed team member, ensure that you’ve set the team up for success with the right technology. Video capabilities are essential, as is a virtual retrospective tool to overcome the distance and bring the team together.
  • Bring in a ringer. If your team members aren’t comfortable leading a retrospective, consider grabbing an internal Agile resource from another group. If IT or product development has an experience Scrum Master or Agile coach in their midst, see if you can borrow them for a couple of hours. You can also bring in an outside Agile coach to help if there aren’t any internal options to tap into.

The Importance of Agile Marketing Retrospectives

Whatever framework we use, and whatever team structure we implement, Agile marketers are always working through the process of translation. The original Agile practices don’t always work for us, so we’ve got to be ready to evolve them.

Without an effective, rigorous retrospective meeting, this continuous evolution simply can’t happen.

Even if there’s no budget (or time, or space, or whatever) to bring on a full-time Scrum Master or coach, find ways to make your retrospectives rigorous. Perhaps more than any other, this meeting can determine whether Agile marketing flies or fails.

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