Yes We Kanban: 5 Goals of This Scrum Alternative for Agile Marketing

Yes We Kanban: 5 Goals of This Scrum Alternative for Agile Marketing

Author: Andrea Fryrear / Source: Marketing Insider Group Pop quiz: when I say “Agile marketing,” what’s the first thing you think of? The

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Yes We Kanban: 5 Goals of This Scrum Alternative for Agile Marketing

Pop quiz: when I say “Agile marketing,” what’s the first thing you think of?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but chances are yours included some reference to Scrum or Sprints.

While it’s true that Scrum is the most widely adopted Agile methodology around, it’s by no means the only way to practice Agility on your marketing team. Check out these 2016 results from Wrike’s State of Agile Marketing survey:

agile methodologies for marketers

Clearly Agile marketing does not equal Scrum.

To help separate the principles and values of Agile marketing from the practices of Scrum, I want to explore the reasons that alternative methodologies came along in the first place.

This article’s focus will be Kanban, an Agile methodology that was solidified by David Anderson around 2002 and has rapidly grown in popularity and adoption. Kanban has eight main goals, and we’re going to dive into each of them here.

If many of these goals align with the reason you’re embracing Agile marketing, you should give Kanban a try.

8 Goals of Kanban for Agile Marketing

#1: Optimize Existing Processes

This is one of my favorite things about Kanban, but also one of its limitations for teams that are hesitant about going Agile.

When you first start, you don’t have to change anything.

Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

You visualize your workflow as it currently exists and then try to improve it from there. No need to change roles or impose a new schedule on the team, just map how work moves through your team and then start identifying ways to make it better.

It’s likely that your first Kanban board will look something like this, with a whole lot of work concentrated on the left, which is where work lives when it’s not finished:

existing kanban visualization

Don’t stress too much if this happens to you.

You can start imposing WIP (Work in Progress) limits on each of your columns to identify bottlenecks and improve your flow.

limit your kanban wip

Because your current roles, responsibilities, processes don’t change, resistance from the marketing team should be minimal. They get to shape how Kanban works, which can be empowering or terrifying, depending on your team’s psychology.

#2: Deliver with High Quality

Any Agile transformation will produce better outcome from a marketing team simply by reducing the amount of work they take on at once. Scrum forces the team to choose a limited amount of work to take into a Sprint; Kanban places limits on how many items can be in any given state.

In both cases, the Agile marketers’ focus narrows, eliminating task switching and increasing the quality of what they deliver. Consider how much mental energy we expend when working on multiple things at once:

Number of simultaneous projects Percent of time
available per project
Loss to context switching
1 100% 0%
2 40% 20%
3 20% 40%
4 10% 60%
5 5% 75%

In Kanban, there are three tools we use to deliver higher quality marketing campaigns:

  • Reducing WIP: Less work in progress = higher quality work. It’s really that simple.

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