Agile for Executives: Using the daily standup meeting as a C-Suite tool

Recently, the Harvard Business Review did a featured set of articles on the practice of agile. Initially created as a better framework for building software, agile has begun finding its way into business functions — today you see it in use across marketing, operations, and even sales teams. Senior executives looking to improve communication amongst their leadership team, remove organizational silos, and increase their organization’s velocity, should strongly consider taking a look at agile processes.

One specific example of an agile tool that works well with senior leaders: the daily standup, also known as “the daily huddle.” The daily huddle gives busy senior executives a common time and place to discuss issues, challenges, and team activities. The ultimate goal is to identify blockers between organizations and find ways to quickly and effectively mitigate them.

How it works: A dedicated time is set on the calendar for 15 minutes per day for the leadership team to get together. Each team member makes every effort to attend at the time; the meeting is not rescheduled or moved if individuals can’t make it. In the busy world of executive travel, it is ok for team members to skip if needed. During the meeting, each team member answers 3 simple questions:

  • What are the highlights from your organization yesterday?
  • What is underway today?
  • What blockers are being raised that could be addressed?

Here are the 4 keys to making an executive huddle successful:

  • Educate, educate, educate: It may seem like a simple 15-minute meeting, however, the more you educate and coach the team on the goals and structure of the meeting, the better it will perform. If the CEO has an impression that the meeting is just time for them to provide a general update, the meeting will not be successful. Instead, educate the team on how to best run the daily huddle.
  • Commit to 15 minutes and stick to it: The meeting should be short and sweet. It should not seem like a chore or just another calendar meeting.
  • Use an independent and trained agile coach to implement the meeting: Don’t go it alone, executive time is too valuable. To get the maximum value out of the meeting, bring on an executive agile coach for a short period of time to get going.
  • Don’t make it a strategy meeting: The meeting is intended to help department heads serve as servant leaders and address issues that their teams may have. Strategy meetings should continue to remain separate.

 

Looking For Better Agile Results? Get Some Design Standards!

With the increasing adoption of agile development, companies are jumping quickly into rapid prototypes of technology projects. This is a great thing, gone are the days of 6–12 month “requirements” phases. However, there are some drawbacks to moving too quickly into rapid prototyping, primarily around reinvention and churn. Teams that jump into projects with little or no standards spend much of their time in the first few weeks thinking about blazing a new path to differentiate themselves. This is great for the creativity process, not so much for consistency across the enterprise and what’s more important: your prototype or test result.

So how do you get to the quick result you’re looking for without all the reinvention and churn? Simple, create a Sprint 0 that focuses on design (and technology) standards. It’s even better if this is part of your agile on-boarding. It’s analogous to cooking with a well-stocked pantry versus letting the team go to the store to buy their ingredients. If you want super creativity, let them go to the store. However, be prepared that this will take much longer, and you will have no idea what’s for dinner for 2–3 hours. Instead, let them loose in a kitchen with a well-stocked pantry and you’re eating in an hour.

Here’s a great example. The U.S. Web Design Standards are published for access to anyone working on a related project. Teams that use a guide such as this will spend far less time debating colors, fonts, and gradients throughout the first 1–2 weeks of a project. Instead, they’ll quickly get busy creating a prototype that they want to brag about.

Want to learn more about how to make Sprint 0 work for you?

4 Things You Need To Successfully Implement Agile

All too often, agile propagates like wildfire between companies. A developer or product manager that has had success at another company becomes a proponent for an agile methodology. The next thing you know, some heavyweight tool has been purchased and developers are left dazed and confused.

Here at Peak we’re believers that if you’re going to do something, you do it well. So, here are 4 things you need to implement agile well.

1. An Agile Coach: Get an expert. Just because we make a mean souffle doesn’t mean we can teach others to make one. A coach may seem like a costly proposition, but the return on the investment will be swift. We’ve seen differences in as little as 3–4 weeks.

2. An Executive Sponsor: Employees watch the actions of leadership very carefully. If you are not bought in at the top, you’ll spend a whole bunch of time talking about agile, and very little time actually doing it.

3. A sticky note budget: Digital tools are fantastic, and really should be all you need. However, when you’re first starting out, nothing beats a physical board with actual notes. It creates habits and reinforces concepts that bits and bytes can’t.

4. A pragmatic approach: Every company is different. Just because something was done a certain way at a previous company does not mean it will work in a new environment. Cultures, people, history, and workload all factor into a successful transition. Instead of adhering to best practices, adhere to the best practices for your company.

3 Trends In Modern B2B Marketing

PeakActivity spent some time yesterday with some of South Florida’s preeminent marketers at the Modern Marketing Mashup (#MMMashup). The event was sponsored by Oracle Marketing Cloud (@OracleMktgCloud) and consisted of 4 panelists along with a moderator. A big thanks to @triblio and @DefintvResults for participating in the event.

There was great representation from companies of all sizes throughout the greater Miami area. Several topics were discussed, heavily focused on marketing technology, data analytics, and content generation — all with a B2B angle to them.

Here are our top 3 trend observations:

1. B2B DEMAND GENERATION IS JUST GETTING STARTED.

Companies are still in their infancy in purchasing & using marketing automation software. As growth continues, expect a large number of companies to shift from traditional outbound sales to more complex multi-dimensional demand generation strategies.

2. ANALYTICS AND INSIGHTS NEED MORE THAN JUST EXCEL.

The importance of data analytics is very well understood, but rich tools are still not quite there. There is still a large amount of Excel-based data export and analysis being done. Unfortunately this can be a very expensive proposition, both from a resource and opportunity cost standpoint. A trend for more progressive and modern B2B companies will be to move quickly to adopt web and mobile-based tools that eliminate the need to pass around Excel files. The cost savings in resources and gains in efficiency are certainly there to be had, and the more progressive companies will exploit these to their advantage.

3. QUALITY CONTENT IS STILL KING, BUT MAKE IT RELEVANT.

With the personalization capabilities of many marketing automation platforms improving rapidly, relevancy analysis on your content will be key. Being able to segment and tag the right audience for the content that you’re creating will be an art that will separate the better marketers from the rest of the pack.