• Establish an awards and recognition program specifically
for food safety and quality programs. This can be for individuals, teams, or entire departments or locations.
• Provide special training, missions, or assignments for those
who have the ambition to grow their careers and for professional development in food safety and quality management.
• Award small, on-the-spot recognition at routine meetings
and scheduled events that recognizes individual contributions and behaviors. These can be small gift cards, mementos, clothing with the company logo, or a personalized
• Create formally structured programs that encourage the
identification of solutions (and celebrate them), as well as
losses, without fear of negative consequences.
• Work on a “just-culture” approach to running the business. 8
The just-culture approach focuses on finding why problems
happen, not who is to blame. The tone this sets could lead
to a positive attitude to uncovering problems and solving
Practice 5: Adaptability
Understanding and effecting cultural change within food
safety will require adaptation to existing cultures across diverse
organizations, which may be geographically separated, have
different customer profiles, use different processes, and have
different organizational maturity levels. This can also include
incorporating new cultures integrated through joint ventures,
mergers, and acquisitions.
While some fundamental principles may remain sacred,
practicality dictates that there may not always be a one-size-fits-all solution for every type of food safety standard or
policy. Adjustments that are necessary for underlying requirements are to be expected and, subject to review, can be acceptable.
When reviewing a specific policy or program deployment,
a senior leader must understand the maturity of the operating
culture as well as the current food safety programs. Ensuring
a top-to-bottom understanding of hazards and risks is documented in several models of food safety culture, as outlined in
Jespersen et al. 9 Having an understanding ensures that credible
plans are in place to manage risks effectively. Sometimes, a
food safety team might be faced with a situation where there
is not yet a definitive plan for full resolution. Adaptability
should promote an open and rigorous review of risk mitigation approaches.
Practical ideas for senior leaders to set the tone for adapt-
• Have an open and challenging discussion of food safety
policies and programs with key stakeholders when they are
being drafted and through rollout to ensure true alignment.
A well-represented review team can often flag significant
challenges and possible solutions at an early stage. A senior
leader can set the right tone by seeking to ensure visibility
and buy-in at the earliest stage possible.
• A senior leader should advocate and support standardized
risk assessment tools and models that drive local-level ownership in identifying risks and solutions to manage them.
These will create a robust and factual discussion around
deviating conditions and how these are being managed.
• Regular, focused, deep review of specific food safety programs, with the collective subject matter experts, will foster
an active and open dialog concerning solutions and the
manner in which local adaptations have been applied for
achieving the same principle requirements.
Practice 6: Accessibility
Executive and senior leaders must be fully accessible,
highly visible ambassadors and advocates for food safety excellence, both internally and externally. A proactive and deliberate approach to ensuring access and good collaboration is a
must, especially in larger organizations.
In some sense, a senior food safety leader is a hub position
that needs to extend in all directions, hierarchically and functionally, to ensure the message, the program, the progress, the
successes, and the opportunities are heard and shared. This is
about building a trusting relationship, and it’s not always easy.
While formal processes like newsletters and electronic updates
are useful, a personal touch (through face-to-face contact) will
be needed to build a respectful working relationship between
For senior executives and business leaders, a chronic failure to be accessible by phone, email, or face-to-face could
inadvertently send a message that food safety may not be as
important as other topics on the very busy corporate agenda.
Accessibility provides a forum for accountability check-ins and
a continuity of commitment that will be noticed by the working teams. This element is consistent with communication
and also manifests as leadership commitment, which are two
important elements in a systems review. 9
Practical ideas for senior leaders to set the tone for acces-
• Senior leaders should aspire to be highly visible ambas-
sadors and advocates for food safety excellence wherever
• Senior leaders should ensure that well-organized, agenda-driven food safety review meetings are held routinely—even
when there is no significant change or update—to keep everyone on message and focused on the mission.
• Senior leaders should always be available for food safety
“Executive and senior leaders must be fully accessible, highly visible
ambassadors and advocates for food safety excellence...”