Create an Agile Culture to Foster Change

No process or methodology can help a marketing organization realize potential without a culture that genuinely embraces and promotes qualities like transparency, collaboration, and experimentation. Being an agile marketing organization requires a change in how people think and act. An Agile culture creates behavior standards based on the Principles of Agility and then effectively manages and reinforces those principles though performance management and rewards.

The three tenets of culture within the Agile operating system are behavior standards, performance management, and rewards.  Addressing each of these areas with Agile as a common thread, will ensure you are creating a culture that is supportive of the new focus and approach. 


Behavior Standards

Research supports that organizations that truly live by shared standards of behavior every day achieve better results. Leaders and team members of those organizations understand and use the standards of behavior in every day conversation. Think of brands like Google or Amazon where the company culture and standards are so intrinsic to the brand, they are commonly known to the general public. It becomes so much a part of their day-to-day that they don’t even realize they are doing it or living it. Those standards set the guidelines for how individuals act and engage with others, ultimately setting the tone for the entire organization.

To embed the culture of Agile into your organization, we encourage you to think about how you might incorporate the drivers of the Agile Operating System into your behavior standards. These drivers were developed as part of our CMO’s Agenda™ research with dozens of CMOs and marketing leaders:

  • Leadership: Leaders set the tone and create the type of empowered culture that supports innovation, action, and accountability.
  • Customer Centric: Decisions, definitions, priorities and pivots are centered on the customer and based on real-time customer data.
  • Collaborative: Collaboration means all-hands-on-deck working towards a common goal with legacy silos and hierarchy flattened. 
  • Iterative and Experimental: Iteration and experimentation speed improvement and spur innovation, so teams can succeed or fail faster and cheaper.
  • Flexible and Focused: Teams prioritize more fluidly, constantly updating and evaluating quality and quantity of output. Think of a soccer team where the ball is always in motion and teams are ready to react while working together.
  • Data Driven: Tracking, reviewing and operationalizing data points creates more relevant marketing results and enables teams to incorporate evaluative data during the process, not after, using data vs. gut.
  • Clear and Transparent: Projects are clearly defined in terms of customer value and teams have clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the agile team. All share visibility across teams and into goals, planning, performance, and results.
  • Empowered: Teams approach tasks with an all-hands/all-brains effort to complete them. How the work gets done and by whom is determined by the team itself.


Performance Management

Read our insights from conversations with over 40 CMOs on Agile for MarketingTM

Performance management is the systematic process by which an organization involves its employees, as individuals and members of a group, in improving the ability to accomplish goals. It includes activities to ensure that goals are consistently being met. Within the Agile Operating System, performance management is larger than just the individual or marketing team output.  It is designed to address key questions at three different levels:


Question #1, Organizational Performance: Is the marketing function as a whole tracking against macro KPIs?

  • Example KPIs: progress against goals, customer satisfaction, revenue, return on marketing investment

Question #2, Program, Product or Initiative Performance: Are the teams achieving the overall goals and objectives (e.g. the reason they were assembled)?

  • Example KPI: progress against specific program KPIs

Question #3, Sprint Performance: Is the Agile team team delivering on what they set out to delivery, are they meeting key metrics, are they learning?

  • Example KPI: progress against sprint cycles, delivery efficiency


With the Agile methodology, these questions will be answered at each review to create accountability according to the shared business goals. Performance management, when focused on these areas, reinforces transparency, being data-driven, and collaboration as teams discuss and solve for where to go next. By reinforcing the drivers of agility teams are able to do more, and to do it faster and better. 



culture_pic_2.pngTransformation into a performance-driven Agile culture requires motivating employees to stay engaged each and every day. You want to change their behaviors and to live by the drivers of agility. This is commonly done through rewards and incentives. 

The challenge (or opportunity) with rewards in the Agile system is to figure out how to reward both team and individual performance without encouraging internal competition. It’s important to consider how traditional individual performance reviews may need to evolve to more fully support Agile. 

One way to do this is to directly link the team goals to individual performance incentives.  Another way is to introduce a team bonus pool, and in the spirit of self-organizing the team is responsible for divvying up the bonus at the end – based on their collective evaluation of individual contribution and team performance. Other organizations have instituted awards to recognize individuals who best embody Agile values.

Culture is one of the most important efforts in creating a competitive advantage. It is what will drive your team members to go the extra mile and make the right decision, even when no one is looking. How would you define the behaviors that are driving your organization today? What are you doing to foster a high-performing culture? Thinking about behaviors, performance management and rewards will help you define the culture change required to Be Agile. 


Continue reading our content series:

Part 1 of 6: An Introduction To Our Agile For Marketing Operating System

Part 2 of 6: Anchoring Your Agile For Marketing Efforts With Focus

Part 3 of 6: Agile Marketing Success Depends On The Right People

Part 5 of 6: The Crucial Role of Process in Agile Marketing

Part 6 of 6: Leadership: the Master Key to Success with Agile Marketing



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