How many times have you heard “we operate in an agile structure” or “we are an agile team” when speaking to agencies about their teams and ways of working? How many times have you asked them to explain what that really means? Agility is certainly one of the buzzwords that everyone in agency senior management loves to use but often fails to explain what that means for their clients.

Some relate ‘agile’ ways of working to flexibility and speed.

Indeed, speed of delivery is something sought in every business relationship, as long as it does not compromise quality. Large agencies tend to receive a lot of criticism about their seeming inability to be highly responsive and flexible in their ways of working. This is partly a result of their hierarchical structure but also their solidified processes over the years. Before activating a campaign, a large agency would typically have to do their due diligence around brand safety, tagging, careful selection of partners etc. which can take a few weeks. Lack of speed, therefore, does not necessarily mean lack of agility but often means diligence. 

Agility, though, requires efficiency. And that is achieved through two main layers of transformation; a lean team structure and process automation.

Can large teams be lean?

Absolutely. Leanness in teams is focussing on what matters and the roles that bring tangible value to clients. Setting an optimal level of hierarchy, the absolute necessary, might help create a lean structure that also makes an agile way of operating easier to exist. Cutting down the amount of layers in a team, typically leads to quicker decision making. That doesn’t mean the teams needs to be smaller; just more horizontal.

And what about the agile process?

Here, the concept of agile is very much linked to resourcefulness. There are 100 different ways to deliver a task but what resources can you use to deliver it in the most efficient way? Teams that brag about efficiency use a set of automation tools that streamline their processes. Why sit there for 5 hours and build an excel report when a you can have an automated dashboard? Why manually optimise campaigns when AI can do it for you?

Besides team structure and process, agility in a team is also knowing how to play to each others’ strengths.

An agile team requires leaders that utilises their teams’ skillset to the fullest. Knowing who is good at what is key to deliver excellence whilst also empowering team members to utilise their strengths to the fullest.

Lastly, agility requires a fundamental mindset shift.

Open-mindedness and flexibility are key ingredients for an agile culture to flourish. A team prepared to step outside their comfort zone, resilient and comfortable with the concept of change, can truly call themselves agile. Big egos and conservatism cannot co-exist with agility. Ultimately, agility is not about size; it’s really how prepared and open a team is to change.