Why systems and processes can fail in their first six months… and how to avoid it

Old habits die hard. And new ones can be hard to form. So when you’re introducing a new system or processes into your agency, it’s important to put some checks and balances in place to keep everyone on track.

Did you know it can take an average of 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic? That’s quite a long time when you think about it — 13 working weeks. Add in some annual leave and it’s likely to be even longer. And when you’re talking about a new system or process, you’re not only asking people to simultaneously break a current habit but embrace a new one. And all this alongside the pressure and focus of their day job.

So there are some tips and tricks to follow when you’re bringing a new system on board. Think of it like taking up running. You know you need more exercise, you know it’s the right thing to do and it’ll be good for you. But a week in and you’re bored and slip back into your old ways. In your agency, you need to establish how to keep everyone on track until the old habits are fully ditched and the new one is fully formed.

So how do we make sure your brilliant new system and processes aren’t rendered redundant in the first six months?

Constantly reinforce the benefits

Systems and processes are pretty much the opposite of what creatives are passionate about. So you need to explain how it will help in their everyday working lives, how it will improve things for them, freeing up their time to do what they love best. And keep on emphasising this and reminding them. This isn’t another layer of admin for them to resentfully add to their to-do list. It’s there to help make their lives easier and their jobs smoother.

Reporting of any kind is reliant on the engagement and cooperation of end users. So if systems and processes aren’t thought through in the long term they’ll fall down in the first six months and become an expensive resentful mistake. Which nobody wants.

Talk to your teams

Take the process of entering timesheets (a common agency albatross) as an example. Address this as another layer of tedious admin introduced by an internal manager with no prior warning, metaphorically wielding a stick and shouting ‘we want to know what you’re doing’. Nobody will embrace that! But approach it as more of a welfare check, making sure you’re not overwhelmed and are feeling supported and nurtured, and it’s a whole different case.

For your agency, good timesheet reporting can help you plan future recruitment needs or short-term freelance support, visualise capacity on current and future projects and make sure clients aren’t demanding too much of your team’s time. Talking to your teams and putting the focus on supporting them, not spying on them, can really shift the focus to the right place and keep them invested in the new system.

Explain your training

Don’t just land mandatory training on people with no prior information. That’s a surefire way to breed resentment. Instead, explain why they’re being given the training and what benefits it will bring. Automated training isn’t often a good idea, either, as it doesn’t account for personalities within the agency. Taking more of a bespoke approach can help garner more buy-in for a new platform or process.

Offer post-implementation support

Once training has been delivered teams are often tempted to slip back into old habits, as they no longer feel they are accountable. So offer extra support as people are getting to grips with new systems and processes. Help them overcome any challenges and keep them constantly moving forward.

Remember you’ve taken a strategic decision to implement your new system. If you’re bringing lots of processes together in one place it might take your teams some time to get their heads around the new ways. But you know why you made the initial decision, you know what your business objectives are and you know this will help you achieve them. Getting everyone into some good habits will pay dividends in the long run.