This blog post is part of Forrester’s Holiday 2018 retail series.

It’s late October, which means one thing as a consumer: You’re going to start hearing Nat King Cole, Brenda Lee, and Bing Crosby a lot more whenever you’re shopping. For most marketers, it just means: Whatever you were going to do for Xmas, it’s already done or in production (or ought to be).

It’s at this late moment — when Christmas tearjerker videos are being finalized but sugarplums haven’t yet started dancing in anyone’s heads — that I humbly suggest marketing leaders try out something novel for the holiday season: setting up an Agile cross-functional team to test out small, but important, experiments in improving your customers’ holiday experiences.

For those of you not as well versed in Agile, what I’m suggesting involves a few key changes:

  • Establish a clear but tight objective that is of value to your business and to holiday consumers (say, improving the experience of a particular persona in a particular context, such as the “late night shopper” for a retailer) and some results that correspond to hitting the objective.
  • Pull together a small group of people who understand the objective to walk through what it means through the eyes of the consumer (What’s hindering them? How are they thinking and feeling?). Make a list of small but discrete changes that ease the consumer’s progress, then do a basic prioritization of those changes with a vote.
  • Sequester together, ideally in one location, a two-pizza team (say, 6–7 people) with all the capabilities to enact the actual highest-priority changes end to end: for example, a group made up of someone with content expertise, someone knowledgeable in digital, in merchandising, CRM, and customer service . . . even legal or pricing.
  • Task one person to drive the group to complete a fully functional and ready-to-launch outcome or change in an eight-day window against the highest-priority change, with morning meetings and ongoing collaboration (i.e., doing it together).
  • After eight days, you review their outcome or change against the objective and — if it still aligns — push it live. Briefly discuss the experience, reconsider the prioritized list, and kick off the next eight-day iteration.
  • Repeat until Xmas Eve.

As a marketing leader, you get a lot of advantages out of this: 1) The changes may actually significantly improve customers’ lives; 2) (even if they don’t) you’ll learn some things rapidly; 3) you’ll gain some experience with cross-functional teams; 4) you’ll gain more understanding of Agile methodology (if only lite); and 5) you’ll head into the holidays and 2019 with fresh ideas.

(For those with access and interest, we’ve written about using Agile methodology to embed customer obsession in the organization in this report.)

Transforming the enterprise, or just marketing’s, mindset to Agile is a big project and not to be taken as a short-term gimmick. But a quick and dirty taste of it is well worth it (and in its own way, the exercise is Agile itself).

So this Xmas, do something new*: Try Agile, X-functional teamwork. It’ll pay off now and later.

*Also: When was the last time that waiting until January to try new stuff proved effective?