The Organization Woman

Feb 7, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Kathleen Brookbanks, recently named managing director of organizational development at OMD, has an unusual client: OMD.
In her new post, Ms. Brookbanks gets to spend all her time thinking about what’s best for the agency.
“My new job is completely focused on OMD,” Mr. Brookbanks said. She’ll be reviewing the agency’s structure and operations to be ready for what lies ahead. “That future seems to be coming upon us quicker and quicker. The changes are really ramping up, so there is a lot of work that as an industry we have to do to deal with that.”
Right away, she’s got two priorities. Her first task is looking at the human resources department, which will be reporting directly to her. She wants to “make sure that we bring in the right talent and that we are dong all the right things to keep the right talent,” she said.
Human resource departments in big companies often get bogged down in the administration of HR, she said. Her new game plan is to have “people who are really dedicated to the acquisition of talent. People out there proactively understanding our space, our market, who are the best talent and going after it in a very proactive way,” she said.
Her second task is studying the agency’s organization to make sure it’s got the right systems and the right people to deal with the data that’s spurting forth in an increasingly digital world. That’s going to require new and different modes of training for staffers at all levels of the company.
OMD already offers a decent amount of training, including its OMD University program.
Ms. Brookbanks said the agency’s training now needs to be re-evaluated in light of the changing media and technology landscape. “If it’s to make sure that every single employee understands the digital world, whether digital is their job or not, what does the training look like for that? What does it look like for the leadership of the company? What do they need to know about it versus the people who are just coming in versus the people at the middle levels?”
She’s also got to figure out how the agency analyzes the torrents of data needed to evaluate both new media options and old. “Is that something we’re going to train everybody in or are we going to bring more people into the organization with expertise in them?” she said.
Ms. Brookbanks said that when the new opportunity came along she was ready to do something very different. “I’m a person who needs change about every three or four years and always have. I had been with OMD for four years and Page [Thompson, CEO of OMD North America] and I started talking about what could be that change to me,” she said. That’s when the idea for this new position came up.
“It came at a time when OMD and every other media agency and every creative agency has to evolve,” she said. “To take someone at the managerial level and pull them off the so-called line and have it as an additive position is to say we’re serious about this. Having people try to do it in their spare time is not the kind of commitment that’s going to get it done at the speed that we have to get it done.”
Before taking on this new job, Ms. Brookbanks was managing director of OMD’s Midwest regions. She will continue to operate out of the agency’s Chicago office, although that might be tricky. On one hand, she needs to work closely with senior agency management in New York. On the other, being away from the day-to-day detail may contribute to an ability to brainstorm and get fresh ideas. But if it doesn’t work out, she’s open to the possibility it of moving back to New York, where she grew up and started her career.
Ms. Brookbanks grew up in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and went to Manhattan College. She became a marketing major mostly because that didn’t require her to take a foreign language. When she got out of school it was 1980, and the job market was tough. Her brother’s best friend’s father ran the out-of-home group at Young & Rubicam and got her an interview there. She got a job in planning, which didn’t pay very well-only about $9,500 a year.
So she decided to get her MBA by attending weekend classes at Manhattan College. Her plan was to learn finance so she could make money on Wall Street. But by the time she completed her degree, she had fallen in love with media and never left the business.
At home Ms. Brookbanks spends time with her husband, a retired ad man, and her daughter Olivia, 11. Since having her daughter, pastimes such as golf and skiing have been abandoned. Weekends are spent at her daughter’s skating competitions. “We’re thrilled she’s found something that’s hers,” she said.
Who knew?
Ms. Brookbanks is an avid traveler to exotic locations. She spent a whole summer in Qatar, where her father was an architect working on building the city of Doha. Her dad warned her that she would have to wear long skirts and keep her arms covered in Qatar, but she wouldn’t be talked out of it. She has stayed in touch with one family from Qatar and looks forward to returning. “I really want to, but the world is so unsettled over there,” she said.


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