How to plan your marketing sprints with military precision

How to plan your marketing sprints with military precision

Published 15 Oct 2018 by Chris Glover, CANDDi
Read this in about 4 minutes

There are quite a few parallels between marketing teams and the military.

Both gather as much intel about their targets as possible and use it to wage gruelling campaigns - though marketing teams probably wish email bombardments were as effective as their artillery counterparts.

In the military, there’s a slogan that has been used for centuries: “train hard, fight easy”. It’s a core principle that we apply to our marketing Scrums here at CANDDi; as long as we plan every sprint in plenty of detail, their execution becomes as simple as possible.

This post will go over the most important aspects of a good planning meeting, to ensure that your marketing team is getting the most out of this critical step in the Scrum process.

How to plan your marketing sprints with military precision

There are many parallels between marketing teams and military planners.

Both gather as much intel about their targets as possible and use it in their campaigns - though marketing teams probably wish email bombardments were as effective as their artillery counterparts.

In the military, there’s a slogan that has been used for centuries: “train hard, fight easy”. It’s a core principle that we apply to our marketing scrums here at CANDDi; as long as we plan every sprint in plenty of detail, their execution becomes as simple as possible.

This post will go over the most important aspects of a good planning meeting, to ensure that your marketing team is getting the most out of this critical step in the Scrum process

Project Management Software

Using good issue tracking software like JIRA or nTask is absolutely imperative when planning a successful sprint. Intuitive dashboards allow any member of the Scrum Team to see the sprint’s tasks and progress at a glance.

Role Assignment

During the planning meeting, make sure that every task and subtask has a clear assignee. It’s vital that everyone understands what is expected of them before the sprint begins, to maximize accountability and minimize confusion.

Clear role assignment also helps massively with prioritization and communication. Tasks that require input from multiple people can be prioritized, and the team is able to quickly identify who they are waiting on in order for a task to progress.

Scrum/Planning Poker

After entering tasks in the backlog, and choosing which of these tasks the Scrum Team will commit to for the upcoming sprint, it’s time to score them. Scoring simply involves assigning each task a value which represents its estimated difficulty.

There’s no one better qualified to estimate a task’s difficulty than the people who will be carrying it out. It’s also important that the score represents a consensus from the whole team. This is where “Planning Poker” comes in.

Put simply, Planning Poker is a method of democratically arriving at a difficulty score without people’s initial opinions influencing everyone else’s.

At CANDDi, we do this by giving each member four numbered cards - 1, 2, 3, and 5. The number 1 represents tasks that will require very little time or effort to complete, while 5 is given to tasks that are extremely complex or difficult, often requiring multiple people to complete.

The reason there is no “4” card is to create a greater distinction between the higher scores. Proportionally, 3 and 4 aren’t too different, so replacing the highest rating with 5 forces people to think more carefully about their scoring.

One by one, the person chairing the meeting reads out tasks from the forthcoming sprint, and everyone shows their estimated score for it simultaneously. Differing numbers here are useful - they provide an opportunity for dialog, and at CANDDi this often results in a team member pointing out potential difficulties that no one else had forseen.

Scoring tasks makes for easy prioritization and allows your project management software to provide more accurate analysis of your sprints. JIRA uses the points assigned to each task to inform the Burndown Chart, which plots the sprint’s progress against a projected ideal to create a visual means to observe velocity.

Iteration

Scrum is an iterative process, so it’s important that every sprint planning meeting is informed by past performances. Allow your retrospectives to positively impact your plan for the next sprint; did any any blockers or delays occur during the previous sprint that can be avoided by anticipating them in the next?

This is another benefit of scoring tasks; while there is no predefined minimum or maximum number of points that should be assigned to every sprint, they do provide a useful means for comparison. Scrum Teams begin to get a good idea of how many points they can complete in a single sprint, which allows them to avoid over- or under-committing during future planning meetings.

Sticking to the plan

There’s another centuries-old piece of military wisdom that says “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. This refers to the way in which military strategy is likely to change in the heat of battle, and it’s a slogan that should absolutely not be embraced by your marketing team.

Once the tasks of a sprint have been decided on in the planning meeting, it’s important to avoid any last-minute bombshells. If a time-sensitive issue arises after the planning meeting that absolutely needs to be completed, the Scrum Team should consider which current task(s) should be removed from the sprint to make room for it.

Final thoughts

It’s crucial for any Scrum Team to make the most of their planning meeting, but this is especially true of marketing teams. Working in focused sprints preserves the freedom and creativity of marketing work but brings it into a much more controlled, measurable environment.

By incorporating the tips from this post and creating detailed plans that the entire team can commit to, you’ll ensure that each of your future sprints are carried out with military precision.

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