Change is hard. Whether it’s starting a new job, or starting a fitness regime, changes does not come easily to most people. So, it’s no wonder when businesses try to implement change, they have a huge mountain to climb.
Because changes causes all sorts of upheaval, from management level all the way down to the office junior. And despite best intentions, most companies find change management a challenge, and that’s especially true of creative agencies.
Why is agency change so difficult to manage?
So why is managing change in an agency different to managing change in any other business? For a start, agencies are very fast paced and in a constant state of flux. Time isn’t always on their side, and managing change successfully takes time.
On the flip side, agencies have to move and adapt with their clients, and with changing technologies and times, so in theory that should equip them with the skills needed to adapt to change.
As independent, business systems and workflow consultants we spend a lot of time in creative agencies. Whether it’s helping them implement new job management software or suggesting processes to help them work more efficiently and profitably, the nature of our work is helping agencies to change.
Here we share our tips from years of experience on how to make change stick.
There are 3 stages for optimising change in your agency.
1. Prepare for change
Making big changes to processes in your agency can be a juggling act, so it’s important that you have a plan in place from the beginning.
Define your change management strategy
When thinking about what your future business looks like, you need to clarify how the business process will work once changes are implemented. Then you need to share that goal with the rest of the agency. Because the key to successful change management is company wide communication, not just with your key stake holders.
Prepare your change management team
Formally nominate someone from each team to be an ambassador for the change that’s taking place. This will be a sign that input is company wide, not just from a select few at the top of the food chain.
Develop your sponsorship model
How are you going to get people on board? This is where communication and engagement are key. You want the whole team to be involved and excited.
2. Managing Change
This can be the hard bit. You’ve decided your business needs to change, but how do you manage that company wide when you have all those individual personalities, just waiting to resist the change? It can be daunting, but there are companies out there that have done it successfully and you can too.
Create a plan
To successfully implement your change management plan, you need to ensure continued communication and engagement with your entire team. A sense of inclusion and involvement will be the key to your success.
It’s very easy to exclude the creatives in your agency, as there’s often a feeling that they should be left alone to continue the business of…well…being creative! There’s a universal thought that their creative minds couldn’t possibly cope with process change as well. But they cope with change every day. A client changes a brief or a Creative Director tells them to rework an idea, they adapt. By excluding them from the initial process and only bringing them in at the end, will not only encourage resentment, but most importantly, you will not have their buy in and that can be detrimental to the success of the project.
All parts of the business need to be engaged and educated. Show them the benefits – to them personally and to the company as a whole, and be sure to do this before the change takes place.
During implementation, it’s important to stick to the deadlines and milestones set in your plan. Quite often creative agencies make the mistake of putting their change management plans aside when an unexpected busy period pops up. But it’s important that these potential issues are addressed when you develop your plan, that there’s a contingency in place.
There will always be something unexpected when you work in an agency, it’s the nature of the business. By continually putting your plans aside, you are effectively saying to your team that the change isn’t a priority, so it will become less of a priority for them.
To successfully implement your change management plan, you need to make sure you continue to communicate and engage with your entire team. Again, a sense of inclusion and involvement will be the key to your success.
3. Reinforcing Change
Once your new process is in place, there’s still some work to be done. The processes need to be reinforced, and possibly refined.
Collect and analyse feedback
Encourage feedback from your team. Asking them to provide feedback shows them they have a voice, that their contribution is important to the project being a success. Their feedback can also help find any gaps or inefficiencies in the process.
Diagnose gaps and manage resistance
Once you have the feedback from your team, it’s time to diagnose any gaps and inefficiencies. Then work as a team to find creative and effective solutions.
If you encounter resistance among some of the team, try not to revert to the carrot and stick approach to get them to toe the line. Instead follow the principles set out above and concentrate on education, engagement and communication.
Finally, don’t forget to celebrate the successes. It’s very easy to focus on the things that haven’t gone according to plan. But celebrating successes is good for company morale.
The secret of success
The real secret to creating a harmonious and successful change management project is managing people. If you engage and communicate with your entire team through every step of the process you’ll be onto a winner.
For more information on change management for your agency, contact us