If I had to pinpoint the #1 client question of this year, it would likely be some variation of “Can we finish it sooner?”. 2020 has been a tremendous year of twists and turns, requiring a strong ability to pivot—three times faster. We’ve heard the urgency in our clients’ requests and understand the unspoken pressure they’re facing that often lays hidden beneath the ask.
Major pandemics aside, there are always reasons for organizations to be nimble and increase their speed to market. But with urgency comes tradeoffs. And it’s important to make sure you and your agency partner are aligned on which tradeoffs should win out, based on your end goal.
So with the topic of urgency in mind, let’s dive into a few ways that we can all keep running full steam ahead in 2021 and beyond:
Focus and prioritize (What is the most important problem you need to address?)
Think about running. If you’re trying to keep moving at speed, you want to travel light, right? This analogy applies to client/agency relationships, as well. Don’t weigh yourself down with a heavy pack. Cherry-pick the most pressing item or problem, focus your energy there, and then we can sprint! That doesn’t mean other items can’t be moving in tandem, but the pace can’t be the same for all of them. It could also mean we need to think about the exercise differently altogether, with a different strategy or different tactics to focus on.
Scope and define (and then stick to it… mostly)
When you’re moving fast, it’s easy to skip past the basics to shave time. However, documenting the work and desired outcomes upfront helps ensure that all parties don’t lose sight of execution goals—and that everyone works from a shared set of expectations. Sure, we can try changing the tires while the car is moving, but let’s only do it when we have to.
Reviewers play a big role in keeping things moving
There are all sorts of responsibility matrices and review structures out in the wild that can help you herd the cats. But at the end of the day, it boils down to a few general rules:
- Not all feedback gets equal weight (e.g., not all reviewers have an equal vote—or any vote—depending on the turnaround expected)
- Stay in your lane
- Understand what’s important to weigh in on, and when
- The bus keeps moving, with or without everyone’s approval
Make sure your reviewers are briefed not only on the project (and the urgency), but also on the role they’re expected to play and when. Are they reviewing for product accuracy? Regulatory blessing? Brand approval? Since we’re all moving quickly, it’s important to set expectations for reviewers and a defined window for them to provide their feedback. If the deadline is missed, it’s either an agreed acknowledgement to keep moving OR the timeline pushes out. When you’re moving fast, there is no “have your cake and eat it, too.”
Check in and calibrate frequently
It may seem counterintuitive to add more meetings to the calendar, but it’s critical to make sure your agency has visibility and context into some of your fast-moving internal conversations and pivots. These don’t have to be long formal meetings; often, a 10-minute check-in is enough to keep everyone aligned. But sometimes these check-ins can shed light on bigger shifts that require pausing the work to more effectively use our time and realign scope. We get it, things change. But agency partners need to be in lockstep with your organization, not running in the wrong direction!
Lastly, and perhaps the most important lesson in agility: Get comfortable with “good enough,” and iterate.
Turns out, MVP applies to Marketing, too. Hear me out—we’re not advocating for work that doesn’t perform or isn’t high impact. Rather, place the focus back on the objectives you defined. Does this execution mostly solve/address your immediate problem? Yes? Great, let’s keep moving.
This can be hard, because often the inclination is to fine-tune every aspect of the work. Instead, consider a more agile approach: get into market, then iterate and improve as you learn from customers (and Sales). It’s true that sometimes stopping the iteration treadmill ties back to your reviewers. Are their personal preferences adding time to the refinement process? Are those preferences critical? Can it wait? Is it, overall, good enough?
We know you’ll sometimes ring us with on-fire needs. And we’ll be on deck and ready to help (with buckets of water in tow). Still, we hope these tips can help us all find better alignment to minimize these fire drills, manage the chaos that comes with them, and focus on the actual task—before things go up in smoke.
With those fires extinguished, we’re also here to help you be intentional and strategic about when (and why) sometimes it makes sense to slow down, too.