A Hack for Mastering Marketing Agility: Watch the Movie Grease

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Do you remember the movie Grease, and its big dance scene?  Surprisingly, that scene is the perfect lens to master marketing agility.

Summarizing the scene: a dance show chose Rydell High as the site of its dance contest, and students strut for gains and glory.  One of the couples–Doody and Frenchy–can barely follow the prescribed steps of a traditional waltz, focusing more on counting than each other.​

During the Hand Jive, other couples not just do the dance well, but riff off the standard- they improvise. They not just do the standard dance, but they experiment within that framework.

Finally, with the entrance of the leads, Danny and Sandy, comes mastery and total improvisation- they dance beyond form and simply invent with each other, creating a unique dance.

Danny and Sandy dance masterfully in a way that marketers must emulate with marketing agility: it may look easy, but that comes from hours of practice.

Frequently leaders try to be Danny and Sandy from the jump, trying to skip over all the other stages: this goes about as well as dancing with two left feet. Here’s how to apply the lessons from Grease to the agile marketing process.

Step 1: Follow the Agile Marketing Rules

To learn a dance, you need to follow its rules first.

Follow the step charts- go through the motions exactly as described.

In the world of marketing agility, this means using the typical practices from Scrum to guide your marketing team. Use recurring sprints; detail your work in a backlog, find a full-time Scrum Master.

When you’re brand new to Agile, following a playbook is a good way to familiarize yourself and your team.

Eventually some things won’t work- that means you can add a flourish to your step; it’s time for step 2.

Step 2: Bend the Rules- but don’t break them

With the basic moves, now you can really dance with Agile marketing.  Maybe sprint reviews are left in the dust as reviews, but you just save them for successful launches

Or maybe sprints don’t feel right for your work, so you embrace a more kanban-style continuous flow- a typical Agile marketing iteration.

However you do it, you now have the toolset and can play with the tools depending on the situation– but that requires putting in the work to learn first. You can’t do the hand jive without knowing the dance- this is the essence of the second step.​​

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Step 3: Let your feet do the talking: Creative Agile Marketing

The third and final step to dance and marketing mastery is when the dancer makes the dance. In Grease, Danny and Sandy are still clearly dancing, but they truly dance to the beat of their own drum, a far cry from wooden waltzing or the regimented (but varied!) Hand Jive.

In my book Mastering Marketing Agility, I show the kind of dance I’ve made– one I’ve developed over years of work. This book incorporates Agile frameworks from a variety of sources to create something unique: it’s still Agile, but it’s far from ‘by the book’ implementations.

This mastered marketing asks marketers to:

  • Create customer-centered teams with reason to collaborate, then provide them with a Strategy Group that guides towards objectives. Conceive and scaffold all the team’s work to help them choose the next challenge effectively.
  • Limit multitasking by using Work in Progress limits Connect the c-suite with other Agile teams to ensure ladders to organizational goals and teams are aligned on dependencies and collaboration.

I’ve reached this place after years of trial and error, and, like any good dance instructor, I work hard to help teams find their own dance as quickly as possible. Everyone’s path has different steps: Ri-Marketing (from the Japanese process of Sho-Ha-Ri, the three steps I describe) shifts to meet teams wherever they might go.

That’s the essence of Ri: continual adaptation based on real life experience.

Dance with Agility

Agile Marketing thrives on iteration. There’s no perfect plan in an imperfect, ever changing world- and that’s the beauty of Agile- it can improvise. It’s easy to forget that a crucial process in Agile is trial- and error. We can’t forget that we need to learn from failure, and often try to get everything right on the first try.

Instead we need to follow Grease’s examples. It’s OK to begin following the steps on the floor. It’s OK to be counting in our heads as we follow prescribed steps. Over time, we’ll develop competency that allows us to riff on the moves.

Eventually, we’ll embrace just-in-time retrospectives and process improvements, continually growing our customized Agile framework to suit our evolving organizational needs.

Each phase looks different for each organization, but the important thing is to ensure your Agile dance moves are constantly improving.

This guest post was authored by Andrea Fryrear

Andrea is co-author of the ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Marketing curriculum, author of two books on marketing agility, and an internationally sought-after speaker and trainer.​​ ​​​​​​She holds numerous Agile certifications, including Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner (A-CSPO), ICAgile Certified Instructor, Certified Professional in Agile Marketing (ICP-MKG), Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Certified Agile Leader (CAL-1), Certified Scrum@Scale Practitioner, and Certified Professional in Agile Coaching (ICP-ACC). When not on a plane or at a keyboard, she can be found in the mountains of her adopted home in Boulder, Colorado.

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