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Getting started with the Agile Marketing Navigator: Team Improvement



Getting started with the Agile Marketing Navigator: Team Improvement

We recently introduced you to Agile Marketing Navigator, a flexible framework for navigating agile marketing for marketers, by marketers in the article A new way to navigate agile marketing. The navigator has four major components: Collaborative Planning Workshop, Launch Cycle, Key Practices and Roles. Within these categories, there are several sub-pieces for implementation.  

Last week we shared how to conduct a great Team Showcase as part of the multi-step Launch Cycle. Today we’re going to dive into the next part of the Launch Cycle journey — the Team Improvement session.

Team Improvement vs. Retrospective: Same meaning, different emphasis

Team Improvement is a collaborative session for team members to look at continuous improvement. The goal is to find a small action item that the team can implement in the coming cycle to improve how they work together. Reflecting back on their most recent Launch Cycle helps the team learn from actual events.

You may have heard this called the Retrospective in Scrum, and if you’re already familiar with or practicing retros, keep it up. We’re not changing the meaning of something that we already know works amazingly well, but we’ve given the name a slight facelift — so let me tell you how that story unfolded.

After coaching many teams over nearly a decade, I noticed the missing piece that wasn’t happening (although it’s supposed to happen by definition), which is actually improving how the team works together. Over time, these meetings often turned into b*tch sessions where I’d hear things like, “We don’t have the right martech stack to do our jobs,” but instead of coming up with solutions and solving problems, it was restating the same complaint week after week. And that felt counterproductive.

So even though Team Improvement and Retrospective are synonymous, the emphasis on the words “Team Improvement” was deliberate, to ensure that the focus remained on becoming a continuously improving team, not just retro-ing what’s going well and what’s not, over and over again.

Team Improvement benefits

Agile is all about continuous improvement. You’re never done with agile marketing because that would imply that learning the basics is good enough. High performing teams always reflect back on how they can improve, and teams that feel empowered really enjoy this session because they feel a sense of ownership and accomplishment.


A Team Improvement session should be conducted by the team, for the team. This is where Practice Leads and Stakeholders need to get out of the way and give the team space to solve its own problems without interference. When I’ve seen a boss jump in and try to solve a problem for the team, it shuts down their power and they’ll naturally defer to the boss. A team feels automatically more psychologically safe when among peers, so avoid any power dynamics here if possible.

Benefits to holding a Team Improvement session are:

  • Continuous improvement.
  • Builds trust & relationships.
  • A safe space to speak up.
  • Empowers team to solve their own problems.

All of this leads to a higher performing team.

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Tips for facilitation

If you have an Agile Champion role on your team, that person should be the facilitator. If that role is absent, create a rotating facilitator responsibility. The facilitator needs to keep this fun and engaging, while also remaining a neutral party. 


A website such as Tasty Cupcakes can spark some fun ideas for this session to keep it interesting, especially in a virtual setting. There are also several automated tools available — here’s a comprehensive list to check them out.

While it’s easy to fall into the trap of the same format for Team Improvement sessions each cycle, mix it up. Definitely have fun with it! The Sailboat is a classic agile theme. There are many resources online showing how to build a Sailboat template: Here’s one example.

First, the team centers around a project or initiative. Next, a timebox is set for the team to fill out the virtual stickies in each category. Somewhere between five and 10 minutes is good, depending on the size and complexity of your team.

The categories that the team will reflect on are:

  • Wind in our sails — what’s moving us forward?
  • Beacons on the horizon — what milestones, goals are upcoming?
  • Anchors holding us back — what’s keeping us from making progress?
  • Reefs or rocks we see ahead — What do we need to navigate around?

After everyone’s had a chance to silently submit sticky notes (you can even send out the template ahead of time if you have people in other time zones), a timeboxed discussion takes place and everyone should have an opportunity to share their thoughts.

The final take-away, and the biggie, is: What one actionable item are we going to commit to that will help us as a team drive forward? This is the Team Improvement piece, and really the golden nugget of it all.

Catch up on the Agile Marketing Navigator series!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author


Stacey knows what it’s like to be a marketer, after all, she’s one of the few agile coaches and trainers that got her start there. After graduating from journalism school, she worked as a content writer, strategist, director and adjunct marketing professor. She became passionate about agile as a better way to work in 2012 when she experimented with it for an ad agency client. Since then she has been a scrum master, agile coach and has helped with numerous agile transformations with teams across the globe. Stacey speaks at several agile conferences, has more certs to her name than she can remember and loves to practice agile at home with her family. As a lifelong Minnesotan, she recently relocated to North Carolina where she’s busy learning how to cook grits and say “y’all.”

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6 martech contract gotchas you need to be aware of



6 martech contract gotchas you need to be aware of

Having worked at several organizations and dealt with many more vendors, I’ve seen my share of client-vendor relationships and their associated “gotchas.” 

Contracts are complex for a reason. That’s why martech practitioners are wise to lean on lawyers and buyers during the procurement process. They typically notice terms that could undoubtedly catch business stakeholders off guard.

Remember, all relationships end. It is important to look for thorny issues that can wreak havoc on future plans.

I’ve seen and heard of my share of contract gotchas. Here are some generalizations to look out for.

1. Data

So, you have a great data vendor. You use them to buy contacts and information as well as to enrich what data you’ve already got. 

When you decide to churn from the vendor, does your contract allow you to keep and use the data you’ve pulled into your CRM or other systems after the relationship ends? 

You had better check.


2. Funds

There are many reasons why you would want to give funds in advance to a vendor. Perhaps it pays for search ads or allows your representatives to send gifts to prospective and current customers. 

When you change vendors, will they return unused funds? That may not be a big deal for small sums of money. 

Further, while annoying, processing fees aren’t unheard of. But what happens when a lot of cash is left in the system? 

You had better make sure that you can get that back.

3. Service-level agreements (SLAs)

Your business is important, and your projects are a big deal. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get a prompt response to a question or action when something wrong happens. 

That’s where SLAs come in. 

It’s how your vendor tells you they will respond to questions and issues. A higher price point typically will get a client a better SLA that requires the vendor to respond and act more quickly — and more of the time to boot (i.e., 24/7 service vs. standard business hours). 

Make sure that an SLA meets your expectations. 


Further, remember that most of the time, you get what you pay for. So, if you want a better SLA, you may have to pay for it.

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4. Poaching

Clients and vendors alike are always looking for quality people to employ. Sometimes they find them on the other side of the client-vendor relationship. 

Are you OK with them poaching one of your team members? 


If not, this should be discussed and put into writing during the contract negotiation phase, a renewal, or at any time if it is that important.

 I have dealt with organizations that are against anti-poaching clauses to the point that a requirement to have one is a dealbreaker. Sometimes senior leadership or board members are adamant about an individual’s freedom to work where they please — even if one of their organization’s employees departs to work for a customer or vendor. 

5. Freebies

It is not unheard of for vendors to offer their customers freebies. Perhaps they offer a smaller line item to help justify a price increase during a renewal. 

Maybe the company is developing a new product and offers it in its nascent/immature/young stage to customers as a deal sweetener or a way to collect feedback and develop champions for it. 

Will that freemium offer carry over during the next renewal? Your account executive or customer success manager may say it will and even spell that out in an email. 

Then, time goes by. People on both sides of the relationship change or forget details. Company policies change. That said, the wording in a contract or master service agreement won’t change. 

Make sure the terms of freebies or other good deals are put into legally sound writing.

Read next: 24 questions to ask ABM vendors before signing the contract


6. Pricing factors

There are many ways vendors can price out their offerings. For instance, a data broker could charge by the contact engaged by a customer. But what exactly does that mean? 

If a customer buys a contact’s information, that makes sense as counting as one contact. 

What happens if the customer, later on, wants to enrich that contact with updated information? Does that count as a second contact credit used? 

Reasonable minds could justify the affirmative and negative to this question. So, evaluating a pricing factor or how it is measured upfront is vital to determine if that makes sense to your organization. 

Don’t let contract gotchas catch you off-guard 

The above are just a few examples of martech contract gotchas martech practitioners encounter. There is no universal way to address them. Each organization will want to address them differently. The key is to watch for them and work with your colleagues to determine what’s best in that specific situation. Just don’t get caught off-guard.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Steve Petersen is a marketing technology manager at Zuora. He spent nearly 8.5 years at Western Governors University, holding many martech related roles with the last being marketing technology manager. Prior to WGU, he worked as a strategist at the Washington, DC digital shop The Brick Factory, where he worked closely with trade associations, non-profits, major brands, and advocacy campaigns. Petersen holds a Master of Information Management from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brigham Young University. He’s also a Certified ScrumMaster. Petersen lives in the Salt Lake City, UT area.

Petersen represents his own views, not those of his current or former employers.

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