Change is both inevitable and constant. Food safety professionals around the world have to remain up to date on subject areas such as Threat Assessment and Critical Control Points, Vulnerability Assessment and Critical Control Points, blockchain and Internet of Things ecosystems, and more. External factors such as socio-economic changes, climate change, and access to adequate resources have also impacted food safety system implementation and management. For an organization to remain compliant with rapidly evolving standards, regulations, and safety codes, every team member, from the entry-level food professional to the executive, must be on the same page.
Change management is a structured approach to guiding both individuals and teams through a change being implemented within the organization. It plays a pivotal role from conceptualization to completion for the change being implemented. In fact, managing change must not be perceived as an isolated or insulated operational event. Upgrading an existing food safety management system, for example, to ensure Food Safety Modernization Act compliance, requires more than updated documentation systems. It requires continuous review of the change, how it has affected other areas of the business, and how the change can be maintained in the long run. Some organizations choose to outsource change management by having an external consultant create the strategy blueprint, while others prefer to be trained in that area before implementing a new plan themselves.
Here are a few reasons why executives and senior leaders steering business decisions ought to invest in change management when it comes to food safety and quality management:
While the source of the quote above remains unknown, it rings true. The common denominator among small and large food businesses is people. Consumers not only have a plethora of options to choose from, but they’re also disrupting, and even creating, market trends. This in turn influences how businesses respond to these changes, which also impacts the operation from farm to fork (or petri dish to plate). At its very core, true change management encompasses managing people.
According to Nielsen, a global data analytics company, brands that observe and practice sustainability are more likely to be profitable. Consumer packaged goods are undergoing a transformation from pallets to purchase. In addition to this, more brands are tackling challenges pertaining to food waste head on. These initiatives and much more will require efficient change management methodologies.
Poorly managed changes to processes, policies, or procedures can be a heavy cost to bear for an organization. For example, transitioning from a conventional auditing system to a digital one without performing the necessary gap analyses, training needs assessments, and resource allocation could result in a frustrating experience. The lack of frequent and timely communication at both the individual (such as the manager and a team member engaging in a one-on-one) and team levels can result in a mismatch between the desired outcome and the evident effect. Streamlined change management can help prevent loss of time, energy, and talent.
Successful organizations adapt to changes quickly to remain agile. The food and beverage consumption landscape is, and will remain, a transforming one. In order for brands to remain competitive, it’s critical for them to be forward-thinking and ready to respond to changes as they arise.
Before we plot the path to where we need to be, we first need to acknowledge where we are. Even organizations that are new to a structured change management form can begin by first creating an awareness around that change. Timely communication and feedback to employees at all levels will help mitigate some of the frustrations associated with transitions.
The next blog post will go deeper into how food safety managers can effectively lead and manage change in food safety management. I’ll discuss best practices related to personnel training, employee engagement and implementation.