Failure to prioritize is the biggest threat to an Agile organization

With today’s tight labor market, more and more employees are experiencing a multitude of tasks on their list. Prioritizing is therefore becoming increasingly important in this dynamic world, argues Melissa Reeve. In fact, the co-founder of Agile Marketing Alliance calls lack of priorities the biggest threat to an Agile organization. A leak in the system that slowly affects productivity and morale. It brings us to the question, “What do organizations need to do to stay in business?

We asked Melissa Reeve and spoke to her – with all the changes, events and uncertainties of recent times in mind – about her take on “The True Face of Agile. How do Agile organizations ensure that priorities are, or are not, set correctly? And how can you, as an Agile professional, play a role in that?

A hidden leak

‘The lack of priorities is a hidden leak that many organizations are unaware of,’ says Melissa Reeve begins. ‘Organizations and people who work Agile often assume that prioritizing is fine with them. After all, they are working Agile. Yet in reality, that turns out to be disappointing. That, to me, is the true face of Agile: prioritization does not happen nearly as effectively as it should. After all, prioritization involves a lot of hidden challenges.’

‘Marketing teams within organizations are used to doing tasks that are standard on their list,’ Reeve said. ‘They tend to do what they always do first, before embarking on tasks that contribute to the growth of the organization.’ By that, Reeve does not mean that doing the daily tasks necessarily does not contribute to growth, but rather that it causes a loss of direction. “If all the work we do doesn’t produce the desired results, it’s just ‘work that needs to be done’ rather than ‘work that performs.’

For any organization, Reeve calls it essential that marketing teams focus on the value they offer customers. ‘And concretely, that means that teams must transform to a way of working in which results are the focus,’ she explains. ‘That requires a change not only in the way we think, but also in the way we work. No longer focus on the work that needs to be done, but prioritize results.’

Analyzing systems and structures as a starting point for growth

Focusing on results requires transformational change within marketing teams. ‘Teams that want to make results their priority must first identify current structures and systems,’ Reeve says. ‘Analyzing all the tasks on the list with a results focus helps teams look critically at what they’ve been doing recently. Is sending out the weekly newsletter contributing to company growth? What effect have online ads produced? In other words, which tasks are priorities and which are not?’

‘When marketing teams have insight into what is producing results and what is not, setting other priorities suddenly becomes very logical,’ Reeve said. ‘That’s not to say, by the way, that prioritization is easy. It requires both teams and managers to exercise judgment in which tasks are priorities and which tasks can also be put on the shelf.’

Prioritizing means setting boundaries

A question that logically follows Reeve’s advice is, “How do teams ensure that priorities are set appropriately? Reeve himself calls that a challenge. ‘People have their own preferences and will tend to do what is in line with their goals and ambitions. The trick as an organization is to sit down and discuss how personal priorities can be combined with priorities in organizational interest.’

According to Reeve, the key is to move from teams being responsible for priorities to the leaders of an organization. ‘By this I am not saying that marketing teams have no say in setting priorities, but rather that the responsibility lies with the leaders. Engage with each other, evaluate regularly and set clear priorities. That way, team members will no longer be distracted and will be able to execute their priorities efficiently and with results.’

Who is Melissa Reeve?

Melissa Reeve is co-founder of the Agile Marketing Alliance and SAFe expert with more than 25 years of experience as a consultant in Agile. Melissa is a speaker and leader in Agile marketing and co-led the latest evolution of the Agile Marketing Manifesto.

Wondering how to set priorities as a team that contribute to organizational growth? Melissa Reeve will speak about her take on ‘The True Face of Agile’ at the annual Agile Consortium conference on Nov. 17, 2022.

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