Agile Sprint Retrospectives for Marketers

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Your team just started this agile marketing thing hoping that it’s as effective as you’ve been hearing.
And now, you guys are supposed to hold an agile sprint retrospective at the end of a sprint, and you really don’t know much about it.

  • What is an agile sprint retrospective?
  • Why is it important?
  • What is its role in the agile methodology?
  • How can our marketing team perform one of these?

If there are questions keeping you up at night while enabling your coffee addiction, these are probably half of them.

Agile Marketing and the Sprint Retrospective

So, let’s backtrack a bit and see where it all started.
One word: projects. They’re the bane of every marketing team’s existence.
By the end of the project, your team members are usually demotivated, the bosses mad, the deadlines nearly missed, and the execution almost sub-par. And remember, this is after lots of sleepless nights and sacrifice.
 That’s when you guys decided to do things differently and behold your journey with agile marketing and sprint retrospective began.  

What Is an Agile Sprint Retrospective?

An agile sprint retrospective is a stage at the end or middle of a scrum where the team measures progress, reflects on the work you’ve done so far, and decides on the way forward.
There are more similarities between an agile sprint and the pep-talk at a Super Bowl halftime than you may think. The main goal of an agile sprint in marketing is to replace the finalized assessment in typical project planning with iterative, continuous evaluation and planning.

Biases In Typical Planning an Agile Sprint Retrospective Comes To Fix

You can agree that these three words best define conventional marketing campaign projects, tiring, ineffective and inefficient. Only three because we leave out the swearing.
However, have you ever wondered why? In his book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, Jeff Sutherland explores cognitive biases that make conventional projecting difficult. They include:

1. The Planning Fallacy

How many weeks into the future can you plan ahead? Imagine if you meticulously planned three months in January 2020; put in dates, tours, road trips, objectives, and if that’s not enough, given yourself a deadline to have achieved this.
Well, too bad, because then Covid hits.
This is called the planning fallacy. It represents the “absolutist” nature of traditional project planning where the marketing leader’s knowledge transcends even space and time. Eventually, there’s one answer you start often hearing even in content marketing: “stick to plan.”

  • What If there’s a better way to do this— “stick to plan.”
  • There’s an error here—”stick to plan.”
  • There’s another way— “stick to plan.”
  • Things are not going according to plan— “stick to plan.”

Eventually, the project is no longer a living thing but a set of stale preset objectives that your team members have no personal connection to.

2. Status Quo Bias

Next time you have whiskey and cola, try adding in the cola first, then the Jim Beam or Jack Daniels. If that’s the craziest thing you’ve ever heard, then welcome to the status quo bias.
This is the resistance to change. Like a wise woman once said, habits once started are hard to break, and this is as true in marketing project planning as in other aspects of life.
If you’re a project planner who creates a plan well ahead of time, perfects it, and then presents your best works to your team, you’ll be resistant to change.
This not only means that you miss out on improvement that you could have made the other day but also end up demotivating your team.

The Numbers Behind The Hype

For a better part of the last decade, agile marketing has been getting a lot of attention. Let’s look at the numbers fueling this hype:

  • According to a PWC study, agile projects are 28% more successful than traditional projects
  • 71% of companies use agile approaches
  • For every billion invested, $122 million was lost due to lacking project performance
  • High performing organizations have a project completion rate of 89%
  • 36% is the project completion rat for low performing organizations

How Does an Agile Sprint Retrospective Address These Biases

Due to our limitations as human marketing teams, these cognitive biases can’t be eliminated. However, we can mitigate them. This is where the sprint retrospective comes in.
The main aim of a sprint retrospective is to eliminate the finality and absolutism of traditional planning. Thus, this process introduces iteration and continuous improvement into your agile approach.
Agile marketers are no longer married to a plan; neither is the plan a non-living object. A sprint retrospective promises to bring your project to life and create an ideal agile marketing workflow.

What Sets Agile Sprint Retrospective Apart?

There are many other evaluative strategies outside the agile methodology. What sets the retrospective apart?
Look around. There are a lot of options. You could have a pre-project evaluation, where you try to seal loopholes at the beginning. Better yet, you could have a post-project evaluation after the project. Why retrospective sprint?

Continuous Evaluation Instead of Final Evaluation

First, with the agile sprint retrospective, your team can leverage continuous evaluation. This means that you can make decisive decisions and changes while the project is still a work in progress.
These small adjustments give your marketing team adaptability to changing metrics instead of the stiff and almost non-existence leg room traditional marketing strategy offers.

Short Small Goals Instead of Distant Deadlines

A sprint retrospective replaces the distant deadline with small iterative goals and improvements. It brings the final goal nearer by embracing small actionable steps that take you closer.
These small building blocks and progressive iteration motivates your team members. Subsequently, it reduces the goal or deadline from something big they’re afraid of to small, simple steps they relate with.

Active Planning Instead of Passive Planning

In sprint retrospective, the project planning is active and not passive. You improve your marketing plan and workflows since the plan adjusts to the team and external conditions instead of the other way round.
Agile marketing processes make changes in real-time as the project progresses.
In some cases, an agile marketing team does not require a deadline, but in most cases, they finish projects faster than traditional teams.

Agile Sprint Retrospective Best Practices

There is no perfect way to perform a sprint retrospective. Like everything else with the agile methodology, finality is discouraged.
However, these few steps will go a long way in making your agile sprint more of a walk in the park.

Preparation

If you ever drew a graph for opportunity and success, they will meet at preparation. For a successful sprint retrospective, you have to be well prepared.
Get everything you need. These include everything from pens, Kanban boards, and sticky notes to even whiteboards. In case you’re planning to have your weekly or daily standup meetings, ensure that you remove the chairs in advance (if that’s necessary).

Stage Setting

After preparation, you can then actively begin your sprint retrospective. But first, you have to bring everyone up to date with everything.
If there are reports to handle, results to give, or opinions to share, this is the perfect time to do it. Set the stage to ensure that nobody feels left out and all stakeholders feel comfortable sharing.

What Went Well

Next is to look back at the previous sprint, the scrum objectives, and results, then focus on the positives. However difficult the last sprint or portion of the project was, there must have been a few positives.
This could be someone who stepped up, collaborative improvements, or excellent displays of teamwork.

What Needs Improvement

Every sprint week comes with its share of shortcomings. In this case, encourage your team members to pick out who, what, and when something went wrong, and what needs to be done.
Ensure that you made it clear during the stage setting that team members are free to air their opinions and similarly should take the opinions others air in stride.

Where To Go From Here

At the tail end of the sprint retrospective, your team should leverage the knowledge about what went right and what needs improvement to come up with future objectives.
You and your team will apply these objectives and agile practices in your next sprint.
How to Use Templates to Effect This Strategy
You can perfect this strategy by using templates, sticky notes, and a whiteboard. Use the following steps in your daily standup meetings:

  1. Give each team member a sticky note and a pen
  2. Ask the stakeholders to write their opinions about the previous sprint
  3. Take the pen and divide the whiteboard into four sections
  4. These sections should be what went well, what went wrong, and where to go now
  5. Take the sticky notes and find a place on the board for each

Common Agile Marketing Process Mistakes During Retrospectives

An agile retrospective may seem like a straightforward process. However, continuous improvement is easier said than done, and making mistakes is easy on this side of efficient marketing. Ensure to look out for:

  • Scapegoating

If scrum objectives are not met, you may find your team looking for an individual to blame. It’s clever because if the spotlight is on somebody else, it’s not on them.
Scapegoating is an easy way to kill the team spirit, create team silos and overlook other key issues that may be holding back your agile marketing.

  • Monologue

A sprint retrospective should be collaborative. The moment a single person is giving all the opinions or running the retrospective, it loses significance.

  • Not Using Question Words

Sprint retrospectives run the risk of becoming vague. To prevent this from happening, always ensure that resolutions are actionable by implementing the use of question words such as who, what, when, and where.

  • Not Leveraging Relativity

Remember that you embraced the agile methodology to remove absolutism, not add to it. Ensure objectivity in your agile methodology by looking at plans, people, and objectives relatively. Use words like “better than” or “worse than” instead of “good” and “bad”.

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