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Agile has historically been seen as a development methodology, but more organizations are integrating aspects of agile into their marketing and creative services teams because of one huge benefit: increased productivity.

Still, Workfront creative director David Lesué is quick to point out another enormous benefit he never anticipated when his team of designers, illustrators, and video specialists adopted agile: increased morale and elimination of burn-out.

“I have no retention problem which is really rare for creative services,” saysLesué. “And it’s not like we’re not doing a lot of work, we’re doing a ton of work. But because it’s manageable, and because people know that in any given week they’re not being signed up to do more than is humanly possible to do, they’re able to go home on time which makes them less likely to burn out and quit.”

Scaling Everest

Late nights, weekend work, and things slipping through the cracks regularly were exactly what motivated Lesué to introduce Agile to his team two years ago. Unless you’ve lived the role, it’s hard to appreciate the dozens and dozens of balls — aka projects — that marketing and creative teams are working with at any one time.

“You have this never-ending sea of projects that are variable,” says Lesué. “Some of them are two days and some of them are two months – and they never really die. So there’s no cadence, and there’s just no satisfaction, because you feel like the work is never done.” He likens it to climbing Mount Everest — but every day you either start over at the bottom, or the peak keeps getting taller and further away. Is there any wonder there’s a culture of burn-out in the industry?
“A lot of times, especially with creative, people just kind of wing it, and think they’ll magically be able to get everything done. But they’re not really measuring how long things will take — to see if you really can you get something done by Friday when you commit to get it done by Friday.”

Introducing order admist chaos

By integrating agile, Lesué began to see exactly what his team was capable of producing in what kinds of time frames — and was able to chunk down the tasks into separate sprints and iterations that were manageable.

“At the beginning of each week, we review our backlog of work, we have everything in one place, everything that’s been assigned to our team,” explains Lesué. “And we prioritize it in terms of what’s critical and needs to be done first, and what can be done second and third and so on.”

If there’s anything that’s too big, Lesué and team break it down into different sub-tasks or sub-stories. They’ll then assign about 30 hours per person per week, because they know they’re going to get last-minute and drive-by requests as the week goes on.

Working with a digital dashboard, they work through the burn-down chart throughout the week, enabling Lesué to see exactly where everyone on his team is.

“On a Tuesday or a Thursday , I can just look up and can see if we’re ahead of schedule or behind schedule,” he says. “And that makes my job a lot easier because I know if something’s wrong and we’re not going to be able to hit a task — or maybe I need to add some more tasks because we’re moving ahead of schedule and I want to make sure we get as much done as we can.” And when the team burns down to zero, they can often go home early on Friday.

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Adopt agile agily 

Lesué often speaks at conferences or participates in webinars (like this one) where he’s asked how to go about introducing agile. His biggest piece of advice is to break it down. “I always recommend that you adopt agile agily,” he explains. “By that I mean don’t try to bite off every single aspect of agile, thinking you’re going to magically flip a switch and completely change your team over.”

At Workfront, Lesué first introduced an automated backlog where all tasks lived, then added in sprint planning, and over time, standups and retrospectives — doing each piece separately.

He also strong advises that you look for champions. “You’re always going to have different personalities,” says Lesué . “You have people who are stuck in their ways and don’t want to change. But on any given team, you also have people who are always looking for the next newest, greatest thing. Pick those kind of people and start them off with a pilot, a proof of concept.”

From there, he’s convinced teams will begin to see the benefits quickly. Unlike that never-ending sea of projects, individual contributors will start to feel a sense of accomplishment and mastery that’s unattainable with the Everest model.

“We do a sprint, we sign up for it, we get it done, and it’s over, you go home on the weekend and you’ve won.”

Join us for this eye-opening webinar that will take you through exactly what’s needed to start winning with agile.

In this webinar, you’ll:

  • Learn how top-performing marketing teams win by planning work in sprints
  • Understand how to organize priorities strategically
  • Discover how to prove your value as a creative team with continuous improvement
  • Find out why agile methodologies are the key to driving results


Scott Brinker, CTO of Ion Interactive and
Philip Sheldrake, Managing Partner, Euler Partners
Dave Lesué, Creative Director, Workfront
Stewart Rogers, Director, Marketing Technology, VentureBeat

This webinar is sponsored by Workfront.