Agile marketing leaders are sailing through the same crisis, but they are responding to it differently – learning and implementing quickly from their experiences.

In the midst of all the changes led by the pandemic, marketers have two possible paths to follow: being responsive or being reactive.

The former refers to listening, learning, comprehending what’s going around, and making a deliberately informed choice about what to change based on that new information.

The latter means hearing something that could trigger a response and acting without consideration. This approach might be faster and the most probable one, but the fact is that it’s rarely more effective than a responsive attitude.

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The core Agile values include responding to change over following a well-thought plan. This means that when marketers are faced with a choice between the status quo and a meaningful change, they choose to change.

Agile leaders prefer a system that was established for change.  They are willing and ready to take in new data and respond effectively to deliver a competitive advantage. Making time for self-awareness and mindfulness, building slack into their workweek allows agile leaders to deliver considered responses instead of knee-jerk reactions.

Responses get more effective and less likely to provoke unanticipated reactions in the market. Reactions have an enhanced chance of failure, which can include everything from zero response at all from the audience to detrimental impacts on the brand if they are seen as opportunistic or mercenary based on the reactive work.

Doing the right and needful work always beats doing more work. Traditional command-and-control leaders demand more results, which might not be realistic enough, while agile leaders support their teams by focusing on more important work now and delaying or deleting the less important ones.

Forcing more work onto people isn’t what is going to work, even in the midst of a pandemic and social upheaval. And, if this happens, the quality of work might suffer, innovation will die, results will get stagnate, and eventually, people will get tired and leave.

So, CMOs need to be agile to make the hard decisions for their teams. They need to choose the most important work, allowing people to ignore, delay, or delete the rest. When this happens, the required work gets done. When it doesn’t happen, more work gets initiated, but less work gets finished.

The last, and most important, the difference between Agile marketers and their traditional counterparts is what they’re learning from the turbulent times. Agile leaders display a growth focused and futuristic mindset — the belief that they can learn new skills, evolve while facing obstacles, and generally grow — and their traditional counterparts are more likely to display a rigid mindset — the belief that it’s difficult to change.

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Agile marketers are leveraging the crisis to build better systems, establish more responsive ways of working, and create alternative paths that would otherwise take them years to forge.

Traditional marketing leaders are more likely to lean on what they already know, close ranks, and shut down the innovation mindset to try and reduce risk.

Marketing leaders should never let a crisis go to waste, and especially the COVID-19 crisis, which has changed everything forever. They should use COVID-19 to create agile tiger teams, who would serve as de facto pilots for agile ways of working. Or maybe they can divert event budgets to training and development to allow teams to get comfortable with agility. It could even turn to be the perfect time to find support for adopting the software needed to empower agile workflow visualization.

It’s crucial to embrace the crisis as a tool for overall growth. Crisis creates opportunities, and agile leaders are finding these opportunities within the pandemic. Seemingly unthinkable change now has momentum, but only if a little pressure gets applied in the right place.