Is BAU the hand brake on your team’s performance?
Firstly, what do we mean by Business as Usual?
Merriam-Webster dictionary describes it as “something is working or continuing to work in the normal or usual way”.
It’s also known “as maintaining the status quo, or maintaining the status quo despite difficulties.”
The phrase was popularised by Winston Churchill in the First World War, who said, “the maxim of the people is business as usual” referring to trade and business hours being unaffected by the war.
Huh? 🤔 So why do we frequently use this outdated phrase in marketing?
Maintaining the status quo in hotly contested markets equates to gifting market share to your competitors.
What worked yesterday, is unlikely to continue to work as usual.
And in a world of 24/7 e-Commerce, opening hours are obsolete.
So from a marketing standpoint, I’m going to propose a new definition:
Business As Usual (BAU): refers to the repetitive, routine marketing work that the team believes they have to get done.
Like managing the social media calendar, making those web updates, or creating that campaign report.
*Note that I’ve deliberately highlighted ‘believes’ and ‘have’ in this definition.
I will go one step further and describe a related phenomenon.
Busyness As Usual Syndrome (BAUS): a syndrome whereby the marketing team is so busy and preoccupied doing what they’ve always done, that it becomes antithetical to innovation and adopting agile working methods.
And here’s the kicker, if your team has a diet rich in Business as Usual, then it’s likely to lead to the establishment of Busyness as Usual Syndrome.
Here are some signs and symptoms of BAUS to look out for in your team.
Busyness as Usual Syndrome – Signs and Symptoms
❌ Marketers proudly wear ‘busy’ as a badge of honour
❌ The team says yes to everything, regardless of capacity or strategic alignment
❌ There is no time for innovation or thinking differently
❌ Most marketing campaigns are a refresh of a previous one
❌ There is very little shared or scaled learning between teams
❌ There is limited upskilling and team development
❌ There is no reflection on how the team can improve
❌ Everything is a top priority – so, nothing is a top priority
❌ Squeaky wheels syndrome prevails – as stakeholders play politics to get their work prioritised
❌ Staff feel overworked, overwhelmed and often underappreciated
BAUS is in stark contrast to the high-performing team’s infliction, known as Agility as Usual.
Agility as Usual (AAU): occurs when the marketing team has shed its addiction to BAU, overcome BAUS and is operating more transparently, predictably and sustainably with a clear focus on business and customer outcomes over activity and outputs.
Here’s what you can look forward to when you defeat BAUS and achieve AAU.
Agility as Usual (AAU) – Signs and Symptoms
✅ Marketers focus on business and customer outcomes over busyness activity
✅ The team says no, or not yet, more frequently without fear
✅ Innovation is inbuilt as teams constantly experiment with customer-focused hypotheses
✅ Marketing campaigns become increasingly personalised and relevant
✅ Teams constantly review and improve how they work together and share learning and accomplishments
✅ Teams upskill each other as they evolve to become T-shaped marketers
✅ Squads are laser-focused on a handful of initiatives to move the needle on their quarterly OKRs
✅ Stakeholders are delighted by the transparency and value delivery rate of the marketing team
✅ Staff feel empowered by frequently delivering greater value, at a more sustainable pace
So what can you do if you’re worried that your team has too much BAU and may be at risk of developing BAUS?
Ten steps to eliminate BAU
- Develop and circulate a marketing strategy that outlines the limited number of priorities per quarter – share this with stakeholders, or better yet involve them in its development
- Banish all BAU – this may be heavy-handed, but starting from scratch is sometimes easier than reviewing everything the team is already doing
- If No. 2 above is too much too soon -, then ask the team to review all BAU work against the marketing strategy, and create a two-column list titled Keep doing, and Stop doing
- As a manager, review this list and try to increase the Stop doing column
- Create a triage filter tool that enables the team to easily assess all new marketing requests against the marketing strategy to identify if the work should be done
- Ask the team to track how much time they spend on BAU Vs. other strategic project work by keeping a diary over a week or two
- Ask the team to set a goal of how much time they think should be allocated to BAU work
- Set Work in Progress (WIP) limits on how much BAU the team can work on at any point in time
- Ask the team to start using customer stories to describe what each piece of marketing is aiming to achieve from the customer’s perspective
- Ban the word ‘busy’, or better yet, instigate a swear jar and start collecting money for your favourite charity.
Getting from BAUS to AAU isn’t easy.
You’ll need to set a strong vision of why overcoming BAUS is mandatory for the team’s sanity and the organisation’s survival.
Training, coaching, and shifting from transactional to servant leadership will be essential.
But the rewards will be worth it.
This article was inspired by a recent client that bravely slashed their BAU and freed the team to work on only the most important work.
They wholeheartedly embraced Agile Marketing Principle 10. Strive for simplicity, by maximising the work not done by the team.
And I know the team is going to love it!
Onwards and upwards. 🚀
I hope there’s one thing you will implement from above to help your team get out of the quicksand and beat BAUS. If so, then please let me know.
P.S. We help teams overcome BAUS and achieve AAU – through Agile Marketing training, consulting and coaching. Please feel free to reach out if you want to get your team out of the quicksand.
P.P.S. If you have a friend, colleague, or boss that needs to read this, please like or share this article.