I worked with the Marketing team this week. They were struggling with how to publish content faster and more frequently. Everyone on the team acknowledged cycle time was too long and that downstream customers were unhappy about it. So – I helped the team map out their content publishing process to see where the problems lay.
Everyone involved with content wrote specific activities they did (one per post-it note) and brought it up to the whiteboard. We watched as eight people huddled around the board to organize the post-its in the order of content task completion. We then pulled up a sample data set of published content to get actual cycle times. The image above is the outcome of that exercise. This was quite an eye opener. For the first time, the marketing team could see the total elapsed time to publish content along with all the steps involved.
Making the work visible allowed the team to see the problems preventing value from flowing faster and frequently. The people with the necessary skill-sets were not available when needed and this hindered editing and SEO optimization tasks. When you’re really good at your craft, you get pulled in multiple directions due to conflicting priorities. Editors, designers and SEO experts were dealing with way too much work-in-process. On top of that, the lack of clarity on what constituted “good enough to publish” was nebulous. Creative work is subjective – one person’s perceived garbage is another person’s masterpiece.
We split up into three groups to discuss countermeasures to solve the problems. Group one set off to define “good enough”. Group two worked to redesign the Kanban board to accurately reflect how content work flowed, so it could be better measured with respect to touch time and wait time. And the third group came up with options for how to restructure the team to better align skill sets around the value streams Marketing is responsible for.
The groups agreed to give each other ownership of the outcomes and to support each other’s decisions. We time-boxed the exercise to 90 minutes to minimize the team’s historic culture of never-ending discussion that had prevented innovative change in the past. The next morning, each group returned to present their proposed countermeasures.
After much discussion, group one agreed to define “Good enough” in the form of four questions related to: accuracy, brand, function and the original goal. Group two presented a new and improved kanban board design to reflect the improved content workflow — they took the process from 16 steps down to eight! Group three proposed a restructure of the team, from one large group, to three groups organized by value stream (Awareness/Content, Lead Generation and Product).
What began as a relatively simple Lean Kanban workflow mapping exercise to gain visibility on bottlenecks resulted in an improved streamlined workflow. And even more amazing, the workshop resulted in two additional major wins — guidelines to help creative workers know (and be okay with) handing over “good enough” work, and a new team organizational structure — designed to deliver value more frequently. A triple win for the marketing team.