Austin Brawner: What's up everybody? Welcome to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.
Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell. How are you doing, man?
Austin Brawner: Dude, I'm doing well. I've just moved into a new house. Have been dealing with the moving process the last four or five days, which is always lovely.
Andrew Foxwell: Always a humbling experience, definitely, in terms of understanding there's physical limits to what I can do and there's mental limits to what I can do. I can't unpack another box right now. I understand that challenge.
Austin Brawner: Exactly. You can go ... It's one of those feelings where at the end of the day you can ... Sometimes you get a lot of satisfaction and you're like, oh my gosh, I got so much done. But when you're really moving ... Like the first day, you get to the day of the day and you're like, it still looks exactly the same as it did when you started.
Andrew Foxwell: Totally. It's hard to see progress moving. It's a good exercise in mindfulness as well. But I know today we're talking about how to increase productivity of your team without burning out, so tell us a little bit about that.
Austin Brawner: Yeah, so, it kind of was inspired a little bit by this move. This move, there's been a lot of working with a lot of contractors ... Moving into an older house, about 100 years old, there's a lot of work to be done. Right now I'm managing my team here at Brand Growth Experts, Ecommerce Influence, also trying to manage a bunch of people that are working on the house. Electricians, contractors, and all this sort of thing. One of the things I've been thinking about is how do you manage a marketing team more effectively? Being able to scale up ... Whether you're able to scale up your business depends almost entirely on how well you're able to work with your team. Today, what I want to do is walk through a framework that will help you get more done in an easier way and more effectively.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, I think that's a great time for this episode, especially as we go into really in the Q4 ... We're in Q4, but getting into it, making sure that things that you're going are the most effective that they possible can be with your team. What's the first step? Let's get right into it.
Austin Brawner: Really first step is that ... Well, I'll tell you a little story about why I think that this is so important, and why I stumbled into this. About two and a half years ago I was feeling pretty burned out. At the time I was running a marketing agency, we had a ton of projects going on. We're building emails, creating landing pages, updating product listings. Basically, all things marketing for ecommerce. The team had grown to about four people. Two part-time designers, developers. The team was growing.
I remember I was going to meet a friend and his dad who were in town. We went to this Korean barbecue restaurant. I got there a little early and I was sitting there waiting for them to show up. I was so exhausted from all the work that I was doing that I actually fell asleep on the little bench waiting to meet my friend. They show up, they tap me on my shoulder, like, hello? Are you all right? I was like, okay, this is ... It was just complete overwhelm.
Andrew Foxwell: There are worse places to fall asleep in a Korean barbecue place because I'm sure that the smells of the delicious food just made it even better. But that's a good shock to the system for sure. Absolutely.
Austin Brawner: Yeah. Exactly. It really came down to the fact that I was, at the point, the bottleneck. Pretty much entirely the bottleneck. My team was growing and they were just relying on me to constantly assign projects and review. What happened is around that time I had a conversation with a guy named Tim Francis of Profit Factory. He introduced me to something called Scrum. The Scrum methodology has changed the way I thought about project management. It really helped out.
We have all, without even knowing it, we are used to working in something called waterfall methodology. If you're into project management at all, that's the terminology. Basically, you pick a deadline and deliver an entirely completed project on a far off deadline. It's the way our education system works, right? You get assigned an essay, and when is it due? End of the semester or three weeks out. We're used to doing that.
The difference with Scrum is that rather than just picking a far out deadline and just trying to hit that far out deadline, it breaks down your projects into little concrete small chunks and makes each little bit of it deliverable after a sprint period, or a short period of time. We use two weeks. That's really the goal of what I want to talk about today. It's moving from setting a big, far off goal, like, we're going to redesign our website, into small two week chunks where you're launching something every single two weeks.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, I think it's huge. A big part of it, obviously, is people are ... We all look at those projects and it's a big project and you're like, got to get that done. Got to build that presentation. Got to redo that website. It's all one thing. Initially the first part is breaking them down into these segments for the Scrum methodology, right?
Austin Brawner: Exactly. Exactly. Instead of projects being assigned ... A big project being assigned, we basically have a clear meeting schedule and we outline in advance ... Everyone knows when new tasks are going to come in for a sprint, when those will be done over the two week period. I'll walk you guys through ... Basically what I want to walkthrough is I've got around eight steps that will help you get started if you're interested in going into Scrum.
Andrew Foxwell: Okay, let's do it.
Austin Brawner: Basically, the first step in moving over to a Scrum-based system is to get all of your ideas, everything out there in your head, down on paper. This is going to take one to two hours, but you want to include all of the ideas that have been swimming around in your head and just get them down on one system. One piece of paper, or one white board, one spreadsheet. That could be products you want to build, partnerships you're going to forge, marketing campaigns you're going to create. Systems. Everything. You just pile it all together, you take whoever's on your marketing team or whoever's in your business that is involved with these projects, and you pull them all together. That's the first step.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, okay, write them all down. You allot a good amount of time to do that. A solid, what, one or two hours to be able to just get these things written down.
Austin Brawner: Exactly. One to two hours, make sure you can really focus on it. The reason why it's so important is because we want to pull everything that's in our head swimming around, offload them so that we can then start categorizing, which is the next step but I'll walk you through that. It's a big part of the Scrum process.
Andrew Foxwell: Okay. All right. What's step two?
Austin Brawner: Once you're done with that, once you've got your big list of all the stuff you want to do, you want to define your roles within Scrum. You made a huge list of your projects, put it aside, now you decide with your team how you're going to define different Scrum roles. Now, there's a couple of different roles within Scrum. There are really four different roles. They all work collectively together to help the team accomplish goals.
First, you categorize those people as stakeholders. These are the people who have to live with whatever the business creates but aren't necessarily involved with creating it. That means investors, clients, or even you yourself if you own a business and you have a marketing team working for you. You'd be a stakeholder and the marketing team would be involved with Scrum. But you're still going to be the one that ultimately says whether or not you like what's happening. Those people are involved but not involved in the day-to-day building.
The next role is someone who is a product owner. Now, this is a liaison between the stakeholder and a Scrum team. Now, the product owner is going to be making the prioritization decisions and basically will be deciding what should be worked on on each sprint. They'll list them out and prioritize.
Andrew Foxwell: Okay. This is a person that's organizing it all together and then says, "This is more important than this," and gives them the tasks, I would say, to some degree at a high level, right?
Austin Brawner: Exactly. Now, this person might be the head of the marketing team. That's generally the person who's going to be in the role as a product owner.
Andrew Foxwell: Okay. What's the next one?
Austin Brawner: Next is there's two other roles. One is a Scrum master and the Scrum master is the person who works between the product owner and the Scrum team. This person is not in a management role but the idea with Scrum is that the product owner will lay out a bunch of priorities and then the team will decide what they're going to be able to actually accomplish during a short two week period. The Scrum-
Andrew Foxwell: Actually accomplished during a short two week period. And the Scrum Master's role within that is to facilitate and make sure that the team has all the stuff that they need to be able to succeed. And that they can communicate with the product owner what issues they might come up with the roadmap the product owner's putting out.
Now, I'll go into a little more about Scrum Master looks like and what their role is, but this isn't a management role. It's just somebody on the team who wants to be organized and facilitate. The Scrum Team, which is the next part is basically a small little mix of coordinators on your team that could be project managers, assistant specialists, maybe a copywriter, programmer, designer. These are the talent. These are the people who are on your team who are actually building and creating marketing. They're going to be working on the projects that the product owner lists out and prioritizes. Does that make sense?
Austin Brawner: Okay.
Andrew Foxwell: They're the people that are doing the work.
Austin Brawner: Exactly.
Andrew Foxwell: So you have the stakeholder who's involved, and then they have the product owner. You have the head of marketing product owner, that type of a role, who is making the prioritization decisions. The Scrum Master who is there and overseeing the team and is that designated person I guess, and then the team themselves doing the work.
Austin Brawner: Exactly, exactly.
Andrew Foxwell: Okay, cool. Once you've done that, what's the next one after that?
Austin Brawner: Yeah, exactly. Once you've decided who's going to be on the team, you're going to go back to that list of projects, and you're going to want to decide on which projects you want to tackle and prioritize them. So, this could be tough. Because once you're going to have this, when you take the two hours and everybody writes out all the potential projects that you want to get done, it can get really exciting. Like, Oh my gosh, I want to redesign the website. I want to launch creative on the all new Facebook ads. I want to do Google Shopping ads, I want to create a podcast. Is all these cool things, partnerships, affiliates.
Andrew Foxwell: Got it.
Austin Brawner: So, that's initially what happens. Now, the goal now is to look at those projects, prioritize them and start ... I like to start by creating like a theme for the month, and choose projects based on this. I might have talked about it on this podcast. But our theme for last month was, do everything that we already do, but do it better. We weren't going to launch on any new projects just only improve on what we are already doing. That was our framework. We looked at the projects we want to focus on upcoming sprint were based on improving processes that we're already doing.
Andrew Foxwell: Got it, okay. So, being careful that you're not getting super overwhelmed, and you just prioritizing the projects. Making you say, "Look, these are great. These are things we want to do. And then here's how we're going to get these done." And that's the product owner and the Scrum Team that's part of that.
Austin Brawner: Yes. So the product owner is going to be the one that is going to go through and say, All right, well ... Product owner and Scrum Team will decide initially on what they want to tackle. They maybe choose one or two main projects. Maybe you want to just choose something like launch new creative for all Facebook ads and define and post a new job description for a new hire. That can be two projects you want to work on upcoming Sprint. Something like-
Andrew Foxwell: Sure. Okay, got it.
Austin Brawner: The team decides, all right, these are what we're going to work on, this is the most important thing for us. Then, it's the product owner who's going to go in and actually break down all the steps necessary to accomplish those goals. And they want to create ... It's a step four, which is create a scrum board or a backlog. The official terminology is a backlog.
This is really where the product owner, this is when their role ... The role is super important because they are going to unpack a larger project into bite-sized pieces that are actually achievable. Now, that would look like, "Okay, we want to ... " I'll use this example because I feel like a lot of people want to redesign ... Redesign of websites, is just a daunting task, right? We want to redesign the website. There's so much that goes into that.
So, their role would be to start and unpack that. So, what are the first things we need to do when we redesign a website? Well, we need to find other examples of websites that we like. We need to find potentially an agency. We need to write new copy, we need to decide on a framework and the size of the change and priorities. There's so many little bite-sized things. And the product owners role is to break it down into small little bite-sized pieces that are actually achievable by the team. There's a couple-
Andrew Foxwell: Okay, I got it.
Austin Brawner: Yeah. So, there's a couple of possible techniques there. First thing I would recommend is either creating a Google Sheet, and you can make a table for your top priority project. I'll have an example here. If you're listening, and you want to see the one that we use, I'll share a link to it on ecommerceinfluence.com. We'll make this one slash productivity. That'll be the link.
Andrew Foxwell: Okay.
Austin Brawner: So, it'll be there and you can go in and check it out. Basically, what we're going to want to do there is you'll create a table and you list out all the stuff you need to do in bite-size little projects. You have a left side column where we will be listing out all the tasks. You just want to make sure that you can break a big task down into much smaller tasks so that your team can then take a look at what is involved in successfully executing the project.
Andrew Foxwell: So, it's basically you've gone through, you got the team going, and you understand the roles. Then it's understanding what do we want to do? Just going through the steps. And then this is really where you're taking the big, here's what we want to do and then breaking it down like you said in a table. You're listing out all the specific tasks involved, and then defining the owner. So, putting those together of saying this is actually what needs to happen. And here's who's going to do it. And then also listing out where it is in the progress of data, right?
Austin Brawner: At this point, we're only going to do prioritization. So, I'll give you an example of-
Andrew Foxwell: Okay, got it. Pretty cool.
Austin Brawner: The big project we had was hiring a support role. We wanted to hire a support role. When we started doing this, the first thing that I wrote down was ... And I did this in something called a user story, which is related to the person that is actually experiencing the project, experiencing the result. So I said, as a site owner, I have a clear outline of all tasks I currently do on a monthly basis with the areas I need help in highlighted in a hiring analysis. So that was the first step that we wanted to get done to hire a support role, which is figure out what tasks they currently do and where I need help. I write that one at the top. I'll read a couple more, because I think it'll start to make sense. As a site owner, I've clearly defined what success looks like for a new hire. This includes responsibilities, compensation, and growth opportunities for the new role, right? That needs to be done after I do the hiring analysis, but also still very important, before we even put down a job post.
Andrew Foxwell: Got it.
Austin Brawner: As a potential employee, somebody who is a job searcher, I can view a compelling job post and I can clearly understand the role I'm applying for. So, that is a yes or no completion type task, right? Somebody I wouldn't necessarily as a product owner have to write that job post. Somebody else could write the job post and post it and are heuristic for whether or not it's complete, whether or not it's compelling, and the person can clearly understand the role that they're applying for.
Andrew Foxwell: Okay, that makes sense.
Austin Brawner: So, that's the process of breaking down a larger task into a smaller task. I've got a bunch ... I just did a training in the Membership, walking through specifically how to do this and also have a picture on the show notes of what it looks like to break it down. And basically, the product owner, their responsibility is to rank the priority of these tasks. They want to prioritize it because that then will allow their team to be able to say, "Okay, well if this is your priority, this is how you want things done, well, then we can give you an idea how long it's going to take us, and they can estimate on that. And that takes us to our next step in the process, which is running a Sprint planning meeting.
Andrew Foxwell: Oh, okay.
Austin Brawner: This is all before the product owner or before you guys will actually meet up and do a ... The Scrum process is based on four meetings. There's a Sprint planning meeting, a daily Scrum meeting, a Sprint review meeting, and a Sprint Retrospective meeting. Now, they work in this specific way. The Sprint Planning meeting is when all members of the team get together basically, spend around 90 minutes. This happens one time every two weeks. For us, it happens on day one of our Sprint on Monday.
So, we'll get together and as a product owner, I will have a list of projects I want to get done prioritized. And then what we do is that during that meeting, the team will then define size of each of the tasks. I might say, all right, here's a task. I've had a clear outline of all tasks I currently do on a monthly basis with areas I need help with highlighted in hiring analysis. So, might say, okay, this is the task and then we basically will decide, the team will decide how long they expect that to take. That might be two to five hours, it might be 30 minutes to two hours. And we choose, and they can make a bid on how long they expect it to take. Does that make sense?
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, that makes total sense. That's really helpful in terms of estimating the amount of time it's going to take, and how it works, how they're going to work through it, I guess. So, yeah, that's really helpful.
Austin Brawner: Exactly. The reason why it's helpful and the reason why it helps remove you as a leader from being a bottleneck is because if you have an idea in your head that some project you want done is going to take under 30 minutes and then you lay it out and you say, "All right, this is what needs to be done." And your team says-.
Lay it out when you say, all right this is what needs to be done. And your team says, oh that's gonna take us five to eight hours. And you know that there's a mismatch, right.
Andrew Foxwell: Right.
Austin Brawner: Or you know it hasn't been explained enough. Either you don't understand how long it's gonna take, or they don't understand the scope of the project.
Andrew Foxwell: Got it. Okay, yeah. That makes sense. So, it's making sure that it's aligning expectations properly too and clarifying those, which is huge. Okay, makes sense.
Austin Brawner: Exactly. That's the whole goal of the Sprint Planning Meeting. You want to make sure everyone has a clear vision of the goal of the project. That they have resources to accomplish whatever goal is set out. And then most importantly, what I was alluding to earlier, is that you want to be aligned on what the goal's precise definition of done is. So, that is where it's really, really tricky, and it requires the product owner to clearly communicate expectations of what success looks like, right. Again, running a team and managing projects is all about communication.
Andrew Foxwell: Right.
Austin Brawner: And definition of done is by far the most tricky.
Andrew Foxwell: Got it. Got it. So, basically it's every two weeks you're saying you're doing it. I mean can people have these more often, or not, do you think? I mean or is it generally you're not gonna do that?
Austin Brawner: So, generally you want to start out your Sprint, and you can define if you want it to be one week or two weeks. We use two weeks. That's ended up working well for us. We have the Sprint Planning Meeting at the beginning to outline all the tasks that we'll get done over those two weeks, and we say well these are the things we think we can accomplish. Now we're gonna backlog everything else and not even touch any other projects. So, the idea is that everyone has an idea of what needs to get done over two weeks, and that's why you generally do it just at the beginning. And then once you get in the process you meet every day to check in on these things with what are called Daily Scrum Meetings, or Stand Up Meetings.
Andrew Foxwell: Okay, sure. That's right, yeah, yeah. I remember going through some of these in previous employers of having being part occasionally with the Daily Scrum Meeting. I don't understand what was taking place. It was always short, quick, daily, and kind of here's what we're doing, right? Is that what the daily one is?
Austin Brawner: Exactly. So, it's basically it's 15 minutes. Each team member reports to the rest of the team, and answers three question. Number one, what have I done to get closer to the Sprint goal? This is for the previous day. Number two, what will I get done between now and our next Daily Scrum Meeting to get us towards our Sprint goals? And then number three, these are my bottlenecks and roadblocks.
This meeting is really important to be kept short and it's just a reporting meeting, right. So, everybody reports and people might say, okay well I have a bottleneck here. It's not a time for discussion. Somebody might say, oh I think I need access. I don't have access to this specific thing. I need access and I have a question about the budget. This meeting is not the time to discuss that. If people need follow up meetings they can find the right person on the team and schedule a follow up meeting with them, but the Daily Scrum is just in, report, and you're out, make sure we're on track.
Andrew Foxwell: Right. Just getting it done, understanding where people stand, what you can do to keep moving forward, and understanding the status. It's like a status meeting basically.
Austin Brawner: Exactly.
Andrew Foxwell: Okay, cool. And then the next step after that is the Sprint Review Meeting, right? Is it if I'm remembering this correctly?
Austin Brawner: Yeah. The Sprint Review Meeting is next. And to answer your question earlier, which is how often you're doing these meetings, so you do your Sprint Planning. You have your Daily Scrums to keep you on track. And then on the last day of your Sprint, this might be two weeks out, so we do the initial meeting on a Monday and the Sprint Review Meeting on a Friday two weeks after. That is when you have the Scrum Team, and also other people involved. The stakeholders that I mentioned earlier. People like maybe the CEO if you have a marketing team that the CEO is not directly involved with. You might have other parts of the team involved watching this meeting. And on the last day of your Sprint basically what you do is it's a show and tell. So, you show off all the stuff that you built over the previous two weeks. Now this might take up to an hour if you've got a lot done, or it could be a little bit smaller and less. I think it takes us usually around 30 minutes to show off the stuff because we're a smaller team.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, got it, right. So, you're displaying here's what we've done basically-
Austin Brawner: Exactly.
Andrew Foxwell: As you've gone through the Sprint. Sure. And then the final step is what, the retrospective?
Austin Brawner: So, yeah. Well as you go through and everyone shows off what they worked on, so the person who actually decides if it qualifies is done is the product owner.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, okay.
Austin Brawner: That's why it's really important for them to be clear about the definition of done. If it doesn't hit the definition of done it will be put back in the backlog, and then we look at it for the next Sprint. That would be wrapping up the Sprint Review Meeting. And at the end of that meeting, this may be later in the day, the same day, or right afterwards, it would go into the last step, which is called the Sprint Retrospective. That's just the Scrum Team, and the goal of this meeting is to inspect and improve your Scrum process. Now a lot of people might feel the, oh we don't need to do this. This is a little bit too much. I'd highly recommend not skipping this part. Scrum is very flexible, and you want to get feedback from your team on how you can improve your project management every couple of weeks.
Andrew Foxwell: Got it. So, it's kind of a going through, review, making sure that you're inspecting and improving the process and making sure that it's constantly being refined to be better. A very Kaizen approach of continual improvement.
Austin Brawner: Exactly. Exactly, continual improvement. I like to start by having everyone review the previous two weeks with some silent writing.
Andrew Foxwell: Oh, nice.
Austin Brawner: Just four questions we ask, which is, what did we well that if we don't discuss we might forget? What did we learn? What should we do differently next time? And the last question is what still puzzles us? So, that question is designed to just try to figure out where people stand and figure out what are the things that we're still confused by, so we can address them.
Andrew Foxwell: Right, cool, cool. Well I think it should be said all of these steps will be outlined. We'll have that in the show notes for everyone, but for me I hopefully people can tell it's a learning process for me too. I have not gone in this deep of understanding it. But I think it can absolutely 2X or more the productivity of your team instead of just people sort of wandering around on daily tasks, which is a lot of what this solves, right Austin?
Austin Brawner: It does. It solves a lot of that. It also solves a lot of the continuous review feedback loop that you can get into-
Andrew Foxwell: Sure.
Austin Brawner: As a manager because what it forces you to do is to focus on describing tasks, and describing what success looks like for tasks early in the process, and communicating that with the team. So, that you just have one time basically at the end of the Sprint where you can look at everything and say, all right is this working of us? Is it not working for us? And ultimately it helps you give your team a lot more autonomy, so they can create the things the way ... The biggest mistake is that people will, product owners, will give too much detail in how they want something created and not give ... The idea is to give people just enough, so they can be creative. They can come up with the way that they would do it and just implement it. So, you give them enough guidance, but don't force them and take away anything of their creativity.
Andrew Foxwell: Nice. Okay, cool, cool. Well thanks for going over this, man. I think this is huge in terms of being in the right time of really understanding how we can even tackle this. Maybe even some people will come back to this in Q1 of 2019 too of making sure that they're setting the year off right, which I think might be really helpful of going through the Scrum methodology. But it's a good way not to get burned out. [crosstalk 00:33:49].
Austin Brawner: It's no question. You can listen to this podcast and be like, okay there's so much we just covered. There's no way you're going to learn how to ... The whole goal of this was to open up, maybe share something that has worked for me and my team, and give you an idea of how it might help you guys out. Like I said I did a more in-depth training in the membership, which you can go check out at brandgrowthexperts.com.
If you joined the membership I do a full in-depth webinar training with this, and we got a lot of resources in there as well if you want to dive into this even more. It's super valuable. It's just a total mindset shift, but one that can make a huge, huge difference especially if you're in start up mode and there are just things are changing and moving quickly. But yeah, thanks for joining us. We will chat with you guys on the next episode. If you have any questions at all about this feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.