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How training modules built the OCG team

Mike Kitson

At the OCG Creative Inc. office, long conference tables are being orphaned into the narrow hallways. Big open spaces begin to appear and create areas suitable for wrestling expositions or turtle races. Two graphic designers pull at a large metallic divider between them and the receptionist. All the while, the receptionist is downstairs muscling a desk around to create room for a sleek leather couch. Our office building on Holcomb Avenue is in the midst of a remodel. Everyone is pitching in. Everyone is busy.

But, they are all away from their regular duties that have them swamped in the first place. I witness all of this as I come through the main entrance with a computer monitor, keyboard, speakers and a series of cords under my arms. This is how things get accomplished around the OCG

Creative, Inc. office. The small group of employees nine to be exact creates a team that is much stronger than the separate individuals.

Everyone rolls up their sleeves and works as one.

I am president of the company, and the employees used to solely look to me to solve outstanding problems. Now the employees at OCG Creative, Inc. work with congruence. A strong sense of team has grown primarily because of a business training strategy I’ve been developing for years.

The strategy reaches the employees in the form of a weekly email that lasts 18 weeks and then repeats itself from the beginning. I have strived to advance the strategy over the past seven years and although

I’m content with its current effects, it will continue to adapt to meet our changing needs. As a creative design agency we would never want our business to become stagnant. So the key is to never let our strategies become stagnant.

The business strategy is made up of 18 different modules. The employees are sent one module each Thursday afternoon. They have the next few days to think it over, complete it and then meet to discuss their answers and ideas during the next Tuesday morning meeting. Each module asks employees to think about certain aspects of the company, their clients, policies and their production. During the meeting, the team members share their ideas and discuss the reasons behind their responses. The meetings evoke meaningful discussions and the employees take away more information than they brought into the meeting. It works to inspire individuals to generate idea for the betterment of the team.

Each employee wants to bring some unique ideas to the table. Everyone feeds off of the ideas and adds more thoughts throughout the process.

The shared information at the meetings keeps everyone on the same page. OCG Creative, Inc. actively welcomes change and these meetings help everyone change in the right direction, without leaving anyone behind.

For instance, in Module Eight the employees are asked to consider why

OCG Creative Inc. clients buy from the company. This module demonstrates how the concepts may be time-sensitive and how the responses will differ according to when they are presented. If OCG is

currently turning around Web site design at a high rate, then the

clients may be buying from them for a number of reasons. OCG may be

producing higher-quality work, or they may be producing their work

quicker than the competition at the time. Whatever the reason, it is

something positive that everyone can be aware of. It will add

confidence for the sales team when talking with prospective clients.

Plus, it will reassure the design team that what they are doing is working well and they should keep at it. This specific module may also raise the question, “Why aren’t our clients buying from us?” The team can brainstorm and everyone can quickly identify any potential weakness and work together to correct it. This keeps the team members from all having a different idea about where the problem may be and working in separate directions to correct it.

Many of the team-building concepts in the strategy are well documented. Seven years ago I started seeking out information when I realized my small team of employees was lacking cohesion. They had the potential to perform at a higher level and I wanted to raise the awareness of the team. I began to attend seminars and read any information I could find on the idea of team building within an organization. I’m an information sponge. Instead of listening to music at work I would listen to a seminar on tape and take away knowledge that I thought would work for my company.

Eventually I compiled a training strategy from countless sources and my own ideas. The OCG Creative, Inc. team started the training strategy with a handful of modules and weekly meetings. Soon the team was consciously noticing the concepts they were discussing at the meetings.

The training strategy was more beneficial for the company because everyone was training together. Not only were they saving time, but they were discussing different ideas and approaches that would not have been possible had I trained them all individually. The members were cross-training and helping each other create the company’s overall climate.

By no means does the team building at OCG Creative, Inc. end with this training strategy. It is no coincidence that our agency has Breakthrough Training in the same office building. Breakthrough

Training, a company that specializes in facilitating professional development, offers constant access to coaching and other developmental tools. Also, once a year we retreat into the mountains to take part in an all day ropes-course challenge known as Project Discovery. The course consists of a number of obstacles and puzzles that vary in degree of difficulty. All of the activities require a high level of teamwork and communication. Plus, in between the activities the group sits to discuss how the process went, what could have been different and how the activity resembles their work back at the office.

OCG Creative, Inc. has always been a small-but-growing company since the day it opened in January of 1994. New employees have joined the team over the years and the team’s cohesion has continued to grow. As president I work to foster an environment that thrives off of team interaction and for this reason I strongly believe in the continued use of our business training strategy.

Mike Kitson is the president of OCG Creative, Inc. and co-author of the “Real Life Habits for Success” books. Contact him at 324-1644 or Mike@ocgcreative.com.