Defining the Role of Upper Management in Food Safety

14 Jun 2024

Navigate Food Safety Solutions

Defining the Role of Upper Management in Food Safety

I met a Plant Manager once who was the only person on the entire staff who knew how to operate a label printer. Labelling was quite a process in this particular industry. Labels are custom printed for each job, and this printer was a finicky piece of equipment (the technical term they used to refer to it was "a piece of junk"). All that to say, the task wasn't easy. And as the most senior member of the team, the Plant Manager had taken on the task of printing labels as his alone. Consequently, he spent hours every day printing labels.

A universal complaint about bosses is that they micro-manage. They do work that naturally should belong to someone else in the plant.

So what was the Plant Manager not doing while he was busy making labels? Well, the natural role of the Plant Manager is to look at the big picture and manage resources at the 30,000 foot level.

Take a Step Towards Better Teamwork

Just like the captain of a ship, a Plant Manager sets the direction for the organization. In a food safety management system, this direction comes from a Food Safety Policy and Objectives. The Plant Manager ensures the organization delivers on their promise. The policy is often too vague to act as a significant signpost, but if the objectives are chosen well, comparing performance to objectives is a great and easy way to measure performance.

It’s also the Plant Manager's role to allocate resources to correct the course when results are not meeting expectations, to keep things on an even keel, and to meet all business imperatives - including food safety.

Finally, in the unfortunate situation of a crisis, the captain is at the helm weathering the storm. The Plant Manager is ultimately responsible when things go wrong. They have to be able to look at the situation from the 30,000 foot level, assume the responsibility for the crisis, and get things back on track. This is a big responsibility.

The Role of the Plant Manager as Upper Management

  • Keep the plant running well

  • Allocate resources when things go off course

  • Manage crisis

So with those three objectives in mind, how do you think the task of printing labels every day fits with our Plant Manager’s natural role? It should be pretty clear, it’s not where he should be spending his time.

Would training operators on how to use the label printer in the short term be a better fit with the Plant Manager’s role?

How about allocating resources to hire a service technician to teach enough people on staff how to use the label printer?

Why not consider looking at the label printer, moving it up the list of things that need to be replaced, and allocating some dollars to get a new one?

Here are a few words that should come to mind when thinking of a Plant Manager’s natural role.

  • Fearless Leader

  • Captain

  • Big Picture

On a high-performance team, roles and responsibilities are well established and everyone sticks to them. This applies to Upper Management (Plant Managers), Program Managers, Quality Managers, and Everybody on the team.

If you want to learn more about aligning your team members' responsibilities with their natural roles, check out our training on Teamwork where we dive into everything you need to know to work better as a team.