Why Cross-Functional Agile Teams Get Campaigns Delivered Earlier

How to avoid specialization and the resulting bottlenecks.

Successful agile marketing teams have something very important in common: cross-functional team members who can campaign based on strategy. This means they no longer have to wait and deliver faster than traditional marketing teams.

These successful teams have the right mix of people to deliver the promised work to clients and stakeholders, and they also have at least one part of the team that can dig into one or two areas to help their lead role.

I spend part of my week as a team member for a hands-on activity on Scrum. There are three roles in this team: instructor, teaching assistant, and producer. My role is usually the teaching assistant, but I can intervene and teach or produce.

Last week the manufacturer had technical issues and I was able to step in and take the reins. If we had not done our homework, it would have been a bad experience for our clients, the students.

The instructor lost the internet again and I went in and learned my lesson. This enabled us to continue the lesson, but it could have led to a reorganization, which would have been a major problem for our customers.

In marketing, being a member of a multi-purpose team does not mean that the person should be a marketing generalist, but the ability to help the team and prevent them from engaging in a participatory model. You can still have experienced team members – you just do not want everyone to be too specialized, otherwise, the team will break out quickly.

You can stop waiting days (or weeks) for another section

We create silos in traditionally formed marketing organizations. Although these silos were useful for building domain knowledge, they created a major problem: the waiting game.

The waiting game is like that.

A manager submits an idea for a new consumer health launch campaign and passes it on to a research team. The research team spends a month on market and consumer research. Then join the design team for another month with concepts, approvals, and reviews. After the design is done, you go to the writing team for a month and do a few more approval rounds, and so on.

Having a qualified team is one of the biggest benefits of having all (or at least most) players in a team who can do it all: strategize, research, design, write, edit and evaluate.

This allows the team to remove lines from another section. This wait or ‘waste’ is just a dead end as we move the project from one group to another.

The team can now deliver much faster without going any further or lighting candles because the right people are there to coordinate the project, make decisions, judge others’ work and walk out the door.

The team is no longer a bottleneck

Even with a team full of people from the most diverse specialties, they will have a bottleneck if they are highly specialized. When team members can develop T-shaped skills, which means they have a solid base in marketing but can help someone else, the team has fewer cases where it hits the neck.

If you are a copywriter who can basically design and edit, you can help your teamwork offline when the editor is on vacation or when the designer is overwhelmed.

I once coached a team with a graphic designer who was the ‘expert’ and only the person can touch the design. Although she was the best designer, the team started working regularly, but it was never finished because she was the bottleneck.

If they take a little longer to catch up with other team members with basic design skills, they can get on with the job, reducing the risk of interrupting all work if they become ill or leave the team.

Early delivery takes stock off the shelf

Our view on work needs to change. It does not matter who worked the most hours individually or who was the busiest. If our marketing campaigns reach 80%, we have a stock problem. Let’s leave the stock on the shelf and guess what: the stock on the shelf does not pay our wages.

By forming teams from different functional areas and allowing team members to develop T-skills, you quickly clean up your inventory.

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