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Passion or Process?

written by:Bruce Perkin


                              What if you were given two options for your QA Team?


An advanced quality and food safety management system, operated by a group of people who don’t understand and don’t care.



A group of highly motivated people who know what they are doing, but are working with a very basic quality and food safety management system.


Experience tells me that the education and dedication of the people working with the system will drive a more consistent and robust outcome than the system alone. So the real questions are: How can you consistently achieve a high level of education, passion, and commitment from your team members? And how can you motivate them to care as much as you do?

Many of us in the Food Industry resort to scare tactics. You’ve all seen the slide – covered in horrific newspaper headlines, highlighting all the major issues: Blue Bell Ice Cream Kills! 28 Years in Jail for the Peanut Company Executives! Chipotle Makes People Sick! All the way back to the Jack In the Box E. coli cases in the 1990’s.

Notice I said scare “tactics.” That was deliberate. Without a well thought-out strategy, no tactic will ever solve your problem over the long run. We all need to apply a higher level of thinking and problem solving rather than simply scaring people and/or strong-arming team members into doing the right thing.

If we explore why someone gets food poisoning, we can immediately say that the food they ate was contaminated with bacteria, or the food contained a toxin produced by bacteria that was alive and growing in that food at some point.

Where did that bacteria come from? Our standard choices for in-house contamination are:

  • The food was undercooked.
  • The food was contaminated by a person who was ill or had not washed their hands.
  • The food came in contact with undercooked food.
  • The food was held at a temperature that was not hot enough or not cold enough.

In each case, there is a human being involved who is not following the rules. If someone knows the rules and simply is not following them, we have a behavioral issue, and behavior is the result of the culture that exists in the business.

Sure, we need to design facilities and processes that make it easy for people to do the right thing, but ultimately we need to create an environment that supports and encourages the correct behavior at every touch point, and then reinforces that behavior through positive recognition.

A simple example: If an above store leader feels that he or she does not need to wear hair covering or wash their hands when they go into the BOH of a restaurant, then why would a team member think anything other than that these things are not required.

How much more powerful would it be if that same leader not only did the right thing, but also went out of their way to recognize a team member who was doing the right thing, too?

Foodborne illnesses are preventable, and you have a responsibility to make sure your food safety requirements are clear, specific, well documented, and easily achievable. You must never give team members cause to believe there is any other choice other than to follow the requirements.

Every part of the organization, top to bottom, must understand that there is no wriggle room, all members of the team need to model the behavior for each other, and coach and support others when we see them slip up.

Of course, all this assumes that it’s easy. It’s not. QA is hard, and always has been.

However, not everything has to be hard. With the emergence of new Cloud-based technology solutions, the tedious, time-consuming, and often overlooked job of keeping track of all the documents, audits, corrective actions and necessary check lists has recently become much easier and is taking an enormous headache away from our dedicated QA and Food Safety Professionals.

These new technology solutions take the drudgery out of what needs to be done to keep your systems up-to-date, and allow your team to focus on the real work – nurturing the correct behaviors of the human beings on the front line.

So back to the question: What is more critical? Passion or Process? The answer is that we all need to keep stoking the fire that drives the passion, and let the technology handle the process.

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