Written for EO by Sarah Fruy, director of online marketing at Pantheon Platform.
I admit it. I was a traditionalist. For a long time, I followed a one-step-at-a-time approach to project management.
All my efforts went to seeing the end product through—not knowing whether it would even be successful after launch. I would spend lengthy cycles working toward a goal. I found it difficult to say no when new projects came across my desk, and my timelines would get derailed. If the project succeeded, it made a tremendous impact. But if the big idea failed, my whole quarter was ruined. Clearly, something needed to change.
Shawn Livermon, director of product management at my company, had seen great success running his division using an iterative approach and felt that roles outside of his department could benefit as well. With his encouragement, our entire marketing team and several colleagues from other departments enrolled to become certified facilitators of the agile mindset.
Having an agile mindset means working through an implement-measure-learn feedback cycle. It requires constant testing and reworking to get the end product just right. An agile mindset should have a dedication to experimentation and learning, a willingness to collaborate, decisiveness, adaptability and a desire to deliver results.
The Impact of an Agile Mindset
Having an agile mindset means being fluid enough to make adjustments to a changing situation. An agile mindset breaks down a major project into measurable tasks: Present the concept, refine the idea with a few rounds of testing and then move to the next iteration.
I immediately saw the impact of going agile. When stakeholders had new requests, I could point them to my to-do list within the workflow and then prioritize their new initiatives. A workflow chart allowed me to update project statuses for real-time viewing. This streamlined communication and alleviated the need for unnecessary and costly project update meetings.
As we further integrated the agile mindset, I saw other benefits as well. I was no longer focused on having a fully functional program ready for a single launch. I had the ability to test, measure and iterate my marketing programs, and my competitive nature pushed me to find improvements with every new launch. I also developed a better understanding of the amount of work my team can handle at any given time.
3 Ways to Apply an Agile Mindset to Achieve Success
There are multiple ways you can use an agile mindset to improve your personal and professional lives:
1. Never consider a project finished.
Once you have completed a project, adopt an analytical mindset. Continue testing ways to optimize the user experience. Continually improve and extend those insights to other initiatives.
Constant iteration means less pressure to be perfect and allows you to focus on what can be accomplished during a given timeframe. You also avoid the drama of a big launch initiative.
I once was tasked with sponsoring a live event to promote a new product. I had little time to research the event, but we were promised press coverage and more than 20,000 attendees, so I took a risk and signed up for a booth. While we got some foot traffic, the attendees were the wrong demographic for us and did not generate the expected sales. With an agile mindset, I could have done more ahead of time to confirm that the event and the potential clients were a good fit for us.
2. Clearly and regularly communicate with your team.
Having an agile mindset is all about efficiency and innovation. You need to regularly evaluate how to do your work better, but this doesn’t require exhausting team meetings that take time and energy away from the projects.
Consider holding weekly stand-ups to keep your team and stakeholders informed on the status and priority of their projects. When run effectively, these meetings reduce the need for other external meetings and free you up for higher-value conversations.
In fact, the top five techniques for an agile mindset, according to the “13th Annual State of Agile Report,” center around communication: 86 percent of companies incorporate daily stand-ups; 80 percent use retrospectives at the end of each iteration; and 80 percent obtain feedback through iteration reviews.
3. Stay focused on your consumer.
Continually ask yourself whether there is a new approach you can take to solve a problem that a consumer has. This might mean a high-profile client in your office or your partner at the dinner table!
The agile mindset allows customers and companies to learn valuable insights. By being customer-centric, you can find the most cost-effective solutions, share the responsibility for launching a successful product that meets consumers’ needs while also being motivated by knowing exactly who your product helps.
The agile mindset allows for teams and customers to follow the project as it progresses, allowing for immediate feedback and multiple iterations. The time to market is faster than other project management methodologies, as you can launch and continue to build upon previous projects. It’s a win-win for all involved.