Agility isn’t just about working faster; it’s about building structures that help you act first and grow fast. Liam Brennan, MediaCom Global Director of Innovation Programmes, explains
We love buzzwords in our industry. Right now one of the biggest is ‘agility’. The art of moving fast, shaking things up and, often, breaking things in pursuit of something better.
However, implementing an agile culture means different things to different people. Many believe agility is about working at ‘pace’ or giving autonomy to individuals at the expense of their teammates but both approaches are misleading.
Firstly, agility doesn’t just mean speed of delivery. If you start shortening deadlines without making fundamental workflow changes, you’ll only end up cutting corners and getting below par work from a burnt-out team.
Agility isn’t just about individual autonomy, either. While a good ‘agile’ team should be given semi-autonomy from the wider business, no one individual should be given higher decision-making power than the wider team. Instead, the best ideas come from a collective with clear roles and responsibilities.
Another misnomer is that being ‘agile’ means having a lack of structure, hybrid roles, and an unclear end goal. This anarchic view, which typically stems from a lack of preparation and process, may create the illusion of flexibility – both within the team and outside – but, ultimately, it produces nothing more than poor work completed in stressful circumstances.
Planning, process, and procedure may sound counter to ‘agile’ ways of working, but from my experience of running such projects over the past two years, creating order in the chaos helps projects run faster, maximises the skillsets of team members and produces strong, differentiated work.
Building structured agility
So, how do you make agility happen? There are many ways you can apply agile working –Harvard Business Review’s Agile at Scale adapts some of the core concepts for larger organisations – but you certainly need to focus on three key areas:
Our MediaCom Blink teams follow structured processes within a lean ‘squad’ teams (consisting of specialists with little to no reporting hierarchy) to produce work at high volumes and speed without sacrificing quality.
This is not an outcome created by doing things on the fly. It requires preparation in terms of team makeup, roles and structure, custom workflow processes, a continuous focus on KPIs and the experience to know when to deliver or close.
Famously, brands such as Specsavers, Mondelez and Paddy Power have set live ‘reactionary’ ATL campaigns in under 24 hours using thorough pre-planned go-to-market processes. MediaCom has recently run a simultaneous technology test for a large multinational using our ‘agile’ processes in one market, with business as usual processes in another market – time to go live was shortened by three months and work required by 60% for similar outcomes.
Google, Amazon and Facebook – three companies we often think of as agile – were all start-ups once but by following orderly processes and procedures have maintained that attitude and approach even as they have grown into three of the largest corporations in the world.
By approaching ‘agility’ in a considered, structured way, businesses of all sizes can uncover new opportunities and find real growth.
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