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Cookies and Cram

By AICC Staff

April 6, 2016

ChocolateFor the past three months I have been visiting family in Bangkok. My grandsons attend a prominent academic international school and were telling me about what they call “Cookies and Cram”—an event where senior students mentor freshmen for upcoming exams at booths that feature homemade cookies. It focuses on three ideas: 1) to provide freshman students test tips and tricks; 2) to give students the opportunity to ask questions and receive information in a nonintimidating, stress-free environment without any teachers present; and 3) to establish a tradition where the senior students look forward to sharing what they have learned and have the opportunity to repay the seniors who took the time to mentor them. The concept is such a great one that I wondered if it is applicable to the business world as well.

I began to think about how a box plant could use the same concept with the talent pool within its organization to provide the same kind of tradition. So, the questions are: Why do it? What are the benefits of doing it? How to do it best?

“Within each of our box plants are experienced and knowledgeable co-workers who could become mentors for all new and veteran personnel.”

Within each of our box plants are experienced and knowledgeable co-workers who could become mentors for all new and veteran personnel. Sharing their experience would be invaluable. It is an opportunity to expand understanding of all phases of the box business, from design to delivery and invoicing. The benefit to the new employees goes without saying, but the opportunity for the veteran employee to sit with the person who actually performs a job in the plant would also have many benefits.

Think about the production machine crew member doing Cookies and Cram with a designer, or a customer service representative doing the same with the six-color machine operator—in an environment that is nonthreatening and casual—receiving information from an expert. The questions from the mentee will likely be challenging and beneficial to the mentor and, of course, make the mentee more knowledgeable about the total box plant and its processes. It is the opportunity to ask all of the questions you always wanted to.

Doing Cookies and Cram with new box plant employees or crews who have changed shifts or machines would work as well. In a nonthreatening environment—as no bosses would be present—they would receive tips and tricks about the personal side of the business. What is important to specific customers? What is important and a priority to a particular supervisor or manager? What are the challenges of working third shift? What are the owner’s or general manager’s priorities?

How would Cookies and Cram be developed for use in the box plant? Once a month or bimonthly or even quarterly, the plant could set up tables in the lunchroom with signs that identify various functions in the box plant, represented by the expert or experts. Of course, each table would have cookies to munch. The functions would include sales, design, customer service, scheduling, manufacturing (broken down by various machine centers), logistics, IT, accounting, and human resources. You could also consider breaking down some of the functions into more specific topics. Or, provide a suggestion box or survey to identify the areas of interest. I would suggest that one-hour sessions be available for the event. This could be done by shift, and to keep the plant operating while shift one is doing Cookies and Cram, shift two could come in early to maintain production.

I am certain that each of you can come up with a schedule that works best for your plant and accomplishes the goal of having the most knowledgeable and proficient personnel in the box business. I would venture to say that this concept would appeal to all generations, especially millennials. It would be a great tool for bringing the various generations together. The other benefits include establishing a creative environment, improving efficiencies, and increasing profitability.

PortraitDean Mitchell is president of The Mitchell Group. He may be reached at

This will be my final contribution to BoxScore. Thank you, AICC, for this opportunity to share some thoughts and ideas to my compatriots in an industry I am proud to have been a part of. I hope someday you will look back like I have and say, “Wow, that was sure fun!”