Wal-Mart Frank: Are you a food safety manager or a food safety leader?

There goes WalMart Frank again, hammering home the need for food safety leaders and that culture thing.

Frank Yiannas, vice president – food safety, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. writes in the latest Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) newsletter that management and leadership are different. A manager’s job is to oversee and optimize organizational processes to deliver results. A leader’s job is to change the process to deliver even greater results.

Frank says one term (management or leadership) is not inferior or superior to the other. They’re just different: and the food safety world need both; — good food safety management and more food safety leadership — as they are both critical to protecting public health.

• Food safety management focuses on the administration of set procedures within an established risk management system; food safety leadership focuses on the creation of new, science-based, and more effective risk reduction strategies, models, and processes. This quote by Stephen Covey illustrates this point quote well. He said, “Management works in the system; leadership works on the system.”

• Food safety management relies on formal authority to accomplish its objectives; food safety leadership relies on the ability to influence others to achieve success. Traditionally, food safety managers coerce others to comply because they have authority over them or their operation. In other words, they get others to comply by holding people and organizations accountable. Food safety leaders, in contrast, get others to do the right thing not because they’re being held accountable, but because they’ve been able to influence them to want to do so. They help others become responsible for food safety – not just accountable for food safety. There is a big difference between the two.

• Food safety management involves working with others based on functional roles; food safety leadership involves working with others in a collaborative manner. Food safety managers work with others in traditional ways to accomplish their objectives. Often times, whether visible or not, they’re protecting their organization’s interests whether it be academia, regulatory, or industry. In contrast, food safety leaders seek genuine win-win solutions for all stakeholders. They recognize they can do more to advance food safety by working constructively with others than by working alone.

Can organizational culture sabotage food safety change?

Terri Waller, a Master of Public Administration student at Troy University and a certified food safety manager and instructor, writes in this guest blog that,

My grandfather, James Davis, always addressed an issue immediately. All bad habits in our house were addressed and put to rest. Food safety managers should do the same — immediately correcting a bad habit will have a positive affect on establishments, scores, and the community in which they serve.

Being a food safety professional, I see almost daily, educated food service managers fail to implement proper food safety concepts. This failure is associated with the culture of the establishment. If the culture of an establishment has always been to perform a task incorrectly or not at all, it is embedded into the DNA of that organization.

Food safety professionals must get in the habit of protecting the community from foodborne illness. I agree with Edgar Schein, social psychologist, that managers must embed correct shared values and assumptions in the organization’s culture and reinforce them in new and current members if they are to create and sustain strong cultures in their organizations (Tompkins, 2005, pg. 366).

“Organizations are not simple systems like machines or adaptive organisms; they are human systems manifesting complex patterns of cultural activity (Tompkins, 2005, pg. 361).”

Organizations are seen as extended families or clans held together by shared values and beliefs. These values and beliefs are established over time as organizations struggle with the usual problems of internal integration and external adaptation. Sometimes they are introduced into the culture by organizational founders or dynamic leaders. At other times they enter the culture unconsciously as members learn how to cope successfully with problems. Over time, these values and beliefs become embodied in myths and rituals that allow the shared culture to be internalized and transmitted from one generation to the next. Once these values and beliefs are firmly established in the dominant culture, they guide the daily decisions of organizational members and provide the glue that holds the organization together. (Tompkins, 2005, pg. 361)

“The strength of a culture is best defined in terms of the homogeneity and stability of group membership and the length and intensity of shared experience (Tompkins, 2005, pg. 365).”

As a manager if you see something wrong correct it. Correcting bad habits notifies present employees of what was wrong and how it should be made right. This way everyone moves forward on the right foot. When things are implemented right in an organization it is easy for new members to come on board knowing what to do and the right way to do it.

Tompkins, J. (2005). Organization Theory and Public Management. Boston, MA,