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Culture Excellence - the differentiator?

Cultural Excellence

I went along to an interesting very well attended seminar on Culture Excellence at Campden BRI on Thursday. Bertrand made a great compère for the event (the agenda described him as event director but compère was a better description).

The number of people and organisations represented shouts out the recognition of the importance of culture to driving sustainable improvement to our food industry. It also says a lot about how hard it is to do!

Big thanks to all the presenters on the day and to Campden for putting it on. It was a varied agenda and everyone seemed to get something from the day. Great to have so many of the audience asking questions and adding to the discussion.

The work done with TSI on the Culture Excellence Program looked a very impressive data gathering tool to understand current cultures. Great to hear all the work on data validation and I am sure the ability to benchmark versus others by sector will prove very insightful. Clearly a very objective way of getting some quantitative measures of the impacts of a company culture.

Great that Quality Culture has been added as well as Food Safety Culture but I would love to see Sustainability available as well. Every organisation is unique and every culture they are aiming for will be unique, I wonder how far away a tool to allow customisation for each organisation is.

I found the whole seminar very thought provoking – my key take-outs following the session were:

  • We can’t confuse the developments in how to objectively assess culture and measure improvements with a magic solution to actually making a change. However great a tool – a tool is just that – one tool to help do a job – not a job completed.

  • The more sets of data that can be brought together the better the understanding of the culture there will be.

  • There is a need for so much more integration of functions if a change in culture is to really happen. Great to hear someone from HR present from one company but if the focus for food safety and quality in the future is to be company culture there will be a lot of upskilling needed between all functions. Technical and Quality functions will need different skills to drive organisational change than traditionally required and

senior leaders across all functions will need to be seen and heard to be driving the agenda.

  • Measuring the current culture should just be the beginning of a creative change management program.

  • Honesty, transparency and proactivity underpin all aspects of a healthy culture. Whether we are talking about food safety or quality or sustainability or ethical standards each of these are essential. If the holistic solution is a healthy culture how can we keep the methods and tools we use as holistic as possible from the beginning.

If having the right culture is ultimately just about “doing the right thing” let’s not create an entire industry of monitoring and over specifying and validating and verifying and eventually just killing the ability for people to think for themselves.

Will culture become the key differentiator between all businesses when looking for potential partners or suppliers?

I make no apologies for any self-contradictory notes – I said it was thought provoking not easy!

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