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The 6 Most Important Steps To Effective Agency Change Management

Gray MacKenzie
Gray MacKenzie is a true operations nerd who has spent the past decade helping hundreds of agencies build more productive, profitable, and healthy teams by solving the core issues plaguing their project management.

To chat with Gray and have ZenPilot lead your team through the last project management implementation you'll ever need, schedule a quick call here.

Organizational change is a key component of agency growth, but it’s not always easy to manage. Humans don’t like change. We are stubborn. We fear the unknown and the uncertainty that it brings and resist it. So, how do we prepare a team well for change?

At ZenPilot, we help agencies transform the system in which they operate on a day-to-day basis – the place they find their tasks, collaborate with their team, communicate with clients, and take their notes.

Transforming a project management platform may be one of the biggest areas of change an agency goes through. It impacts the daily workflow of every individual in the organization – and their clients!

Is it easy? Nope. Is there friction? Yup!

If you’re looking to implement change at any organization, you need to be willing to embrace the pain for a period of time. Lean into this and push through, because the view on the other side is always worth it.

After helping thousands of agencies with massive transformations, we’ve learned a few lessons. But before we jump into the 6 steps, there’s an even more important piece to effective change management.

Pro Tip: Assign an Internal Champion 🏆

You need to have someone with clear ownership in this process. This can be someone on the leadership team or someone else at the agency with leadership’s support.

This process only works if you have an internal champion running point and spearheading this project.

An internal champion should:

  1. Put the project plan together
  2. Architect the high level overview
  3. Setup and facilitate 1-on-1s to gather feedback
  4. Engage with the team through adoption
  5. Know the process well enough that they know the difference between a system failure and an adoption failure
  6. Be held accountable

After you’ve assigned an internal champion to lead this process, they’re now ready to work through the 6-step framework to implement change.

1. Give People a Platform or Channel to Express Their Pain or Frustrations

Implementing change in any organization should always start with getting the whole team involved. This will help you understand the full picture. To begin, ask them, “Where do you experience friction in the process?”

If leadership moves forward on their own change initiatives without engaging the team, adoption is going to be a struggle. The team won’t be bought in unless they feel involved.

  1. Engage the team
  2. Give the team a voice
  3. And listen to them

What channels do you use to gather feedback?

There are a variety of ways to gather feedback in this process. Each of these can be used at different stages of the process.

1. Forms

Forms or general feedback channels should be implemented in any business. These are ways for you continuously gather feedback and be proactive when it comes to issues.

For example, we help agencies put together a “Process Feedback Form” so that the team can continuously send in feedback and share ideas for how they want to see things improve.

Use these forms to initiate conversation in bi-weekly 1-on-1s. Always ask your team, “How can I make your job easier or help streamline your work?”.

These feedback points can help the leadership team make critical decisions. If there is an ongoing trend of something, it must be time to make the change.

Additionally, this continuous feedback can help you put together a specific survey for your change initiative which is the second channel.

2. Surveys

At ZenPilot, we use a team survey in our Blueprint process to let everyone grade different areas of the business. Why?

  • A survey gives everyone a voice and lets the quieter of the group speak.
  • Secondly, a survey gives the team time to think. You will get the change suggestions from the people who are the most engaged and are the most thought out in terms of what they want to see happen.

Here are a few statements we let the team grade the business on a 1-5 scale:

  1. I understand my role and what is expected of me.
  2. I understand each tool we use and where it fits into our process.
  3. Leadership is fair and open to my feedback.
  4. We set healthy communication habits within our team.
  5. I feel like my peers and leaders have my back and actively support me.

When you create a survey, it’s important to gather quantitative and qualitative feedback.

  1. Quantitative – Let them team rate certain areas on a 1-5 or 1-10 scale. Number scores help us capture issues across the board. If we see a lot of 1 out of 5’s then we can further dive into this.
  2. Qualitative – Let the team provide open-ended feedback on their responses. This helps flesh out the context.

Qualitative feedback will also come from your 1-on-1 meetings with the team.

3. 1-on-1s

After the survey is sent out to the team and it’s completed. Review the responses and meet with every team member to hear what they have to say. This allows them to speak freely and feel heard.

By sending out the survey first, you have sparked thinking on what could make the business better.

After you’ve met with everyone, you can hold an all-hands meeting to discuss.

4. All-Hands Meeting

An all-hands meeting should only be used to review issues and prioritize.

We’ve seen thousands of situations where agencies focus solely on all-hands meetings to save time. Don’t do this! Do not cut corners.

An all-hands will lead to a select few individuals sharing their feedback – the talkers and complainers. If you only listen to this group, you’re going to end up always bending to their will.

Everyone should be heard and felt heard. An all-hands meeting will not be the solution for that.

Get the Team Excited 🎉

It’s important to collect this feedback. If you try to move forward without this, you’ll struggle to get people bought in.

If you want to make change, you need to get people excited about it at the very beginning, so that they embrace the pain of change.

You need to get the team geared up and ready so that they can see the vision as they move through the process.

2. Make A Decision

After you’ve provided the team with multiple channels to provide input, and you feel confident you have clarity on what people are trying to say, it’s time to make the call.

This decision should not be made by a committee.

Don’t bring this forward for the full team to make their call. This will handicap you.

The leadership team has the closest eye on where the business is trying to go. Their job is to grow a healthy business with healthy margins, and maintain healthy and happy clients while facilitating a healthy and happy team.

As an agency leader, you need to balance these three things together – growth, clients and people.

Make the decision as a leadership team and stand behind that decision as you roll it out.

3. Map the Journey

Begin the process of communicating your decision with the team.

  1. What is the change that is going to be made?
  2. What does the end state look like?
  3. How is going to be rolled out?

The Vision Reaches Beyond Leadership

The team needs to see the why behind the what. You need to connect the vision to their day-to-day. Paint a picture that gets everyone excited. Focus on how this change will make their lives better and easier.

If the explanation for your vision revolves solely around the leadership team’s benefit, you will struggle to get buy-in from the team.

Do the work and prepare to paint this picture and map out the step-by-step journey.

  1. Where are we going first?
  2. What are the milestones that we will walk through together as a team?

This holds true whether you’re working with an outside consultant or just self-implementing something.

Tell the team how we are going to get to your vision so that they know what to expect.

4. Set Clear Expectations and Participation

After the high-level overview is in place and you’ve mapped out the end state and milestones to get there. The team needs to know where they fit into the process.

This is a step that a lot of agencies miss.

Oftentimes, leadership paints the picture for the team and everyone is excited, but they miss the mark on clearly stating what exact tasks they need the team to do. Everyone is pumped and excited and then after a good night’s sleep, reality hits.

Go through the details and articulate through the management structure, what is expected of each person.

Clearly state the outcomes that they can expect and the inputs that are needed from them.

  1. Do they need to build something?
  2. Are there habits that need to be changed of them?
  3. What will be the impact of their day-to-day?

By setting the vision and articulating clearly defined expectations, you will get rid of all surprises.

Pro tip: If this is your first time going through a massive change, spend time doing your research and due diligence. You need to be an educated consumer before you jump into something

Do your research and understand the steps that will be needed to take place. You may not know what all the steps will look like, but you’ll what they are and where they take place.

Finding a partner who’s gone through the change you wish to make can be a huge help. You’ll either invest a lot of time in the process or you can invest money in a partner who has a proven process to follow.

Both paths can get you there and both have pros and cons.

Just know that you’ll either invest in research and testing or in researching a partner and paying for their services.

What Does a Clear Timeline Look Like?

Here’s a great example:

The Dominos Pizza Tracker – When you order a pizza from Dominos you know:

  1. When the dough is made
  2. When your pizza get’s the toppings put on
  3. When the pizza goes in the oven
  4. When the pizza gets taken out of the oven and is in the box
  5. When the pizza is out for delivery
  6. And when the pizza will be delivered

There are no questions. Every milestone is clearly articulated and shown to the consumer.

They may not teach you how to make the pizza, but they give you a clear timeline and expectations.

5. Launch and Monitor Team Adoption 🚀

When you get the green light to go and launch the change, take some time to actively monitor how the team is doing in adopting to those new processes.

You laid out expectations to the team – how are they doing in living up to those expectations?

There will likely be some questions, friction and pushback. Lean in to this friction and have an intentional plan to address this.

If issues do pop-up across the team, triage these issues. Expect these issues to happen. You will not hit it out of the park on the first at-bat.

6. Optimize (But Only System Issues)

And lastly, you need to continue to optimize from this change. BUT before you start optimizing, make sure the issue you’re addressing is a systems issue and not just a user adoption issue.

Spend time sitting with issues before fixing issues.

Is this the system failing or is it a behavioral issue?

You’ve implemented the change, but this is just the beginning…

Start Implementing Change to Take Your Agency to New Heights

There is never a good time to totally revamp your business. You have to realize that on the back end, but it will be a game changer.

The best time to plant a tree? 30 years ago. 🌲

The second best time to plant a tree? Today. 🌲

Need some encouragement and a real-life scenario? Read how Gravity Global embraced change and skyrocketed productivity.

And, if you need a partner, schedule a call with us today.



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