Every Agile adoption in marketing needs an Agile Champion. Sometimes more than one. The Agile Champion can be a senior leader, a mid-level manager, or even a well-respected individual contributor. While positional power may make some of the roles of the Agile champion easier, the Agile champion can’t rely on positional power. They influence through respect and earned authority.
The Agile Champion plays multiple roles. Let’s take a look at a few of these roles.
The change agent is the most common and essential role an Agile Champion plays. Agile champions realize that the shift to business agility requires change, and people resist change unless they can recognize what’s in it for them (the WIIFM principle). Change agents communicate to people the WIIFM (what’s in it for them); they listen to people’s concerns, showing empathy and addressing those concerns. They build coalitions of people who support change. They demonstrate flexibility in allowing different teams to adapt Agile methodologies and practices based on their local needs. They are persistent and don’t give up at the first sign of resistance.
Although the Agile Champion may or may not be responsible for coaching in their job description, they almost always coach others in Agile practices and how to communicate to senior leaders, mid-level managers, and individual contributors. They usually have a deep knowledge of the Agile mindset and how to apply agile thinking to realize marketing agility. They coach by asking questions and helping people find their own answers rather than spouting answers at people.
Example of Agility
It’s difficult to convince people of the power of marketing agility if the Agile champion doesn’t serve as an excellent example of agility themselves. If the Agile champion isn’t iterative in their approach, if they aren’t customer-centric to both internal and external customers, if they don’t manage their workflow effectively, in short, if they don’t practice what they preach, they will not be credible in any of the roles of an Agile champion.
In journalism, a fixer is a local person who assists foreign journalists, often helping them with logistics, translation, and providing access to sources or locations. They “fix” logistical problems for the journalist. The Agile champion has to “fix” issues and obstacles to adopting marketing agility. Whether procuring resources or removing barriers, the Agile champion must ensure that the momentum of the adoption of marketing agility continues.
The Agile champion celebrates internal successes and encourages people to make progress on marketing agility. They get the teams energized and excited to “play the game.” They cheerlead every example of progress. They help people feel good about the improvements that they are making.
The role of the publicist is different from that of the cheerleader. The Agile champion acting as a publicist publicizes success
external to the team. Whether it be to stakeholders in other departments, to senior leadership, or even outside of the organization, the Agile champion acting as a publicist increases awareness of what marketing teams are doing and how they’re succeeding.
Just as a priest/minister/reverend/rabbi/imam/shaman takes care of the faithful and evangelizes to others to join the faith, the Agile champion tends to those who already believe and encourages others to join the faith. The role of evangelist is one that’s best done lightly. Some Agile evangelists come across as too strong and turn people off, particularly if they overuse the jargon of Agile rather than talking about the benefits of marketing agility.
Agile champions also play the role of cultural steward. They are the historians of how the organization built a culture of agility. They make sure that when new employees join the organization, they are trained in the cultural values of agility: values like flexibility and adaptability, respect for others, transparency, listening and sharing, collaboration, and trust.
If all of those roles sound like a lot to be played by one person, it’s true. The Agile champion is a challenging job, requiring many different skills and the ability to wear multiple hats, depending on the needs of the moment.
Who is the best Agile champion you’ve ever seen? What made them effective? Tell us about your own experience in the comments below.