As a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) practitioner, when you think about the 12 fundamental steps of HACCP, the first thing that probably comes to mind is setting up a multidisciplinary team; but how effective are traditional multidisciplinary teams today, really?
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When HACCP, the brainchild of scientists and researchers from Pillsbury, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), first made its presence felt in the 1950s, it made sense to describe the designated team as “multidisciplinary” since job titles did not always correlate with job descriptions. In fact, highly specialized talent pools were expected to fulfil multiple roles within a title and constantly communicate with the rest of the team. Generation gaps weren’t as evident within the skilled workforce compared to multi-generational talents working shoulder to shoulder today.
Smarter, more resilient, and proactive HACCP teams operating within current safety and quality landscapes are slowly shifting from the traditional multidisciplinary approach to more accessible ways of collaboratively working with one another. More food businesses are realizing the importance of building “interdisciplinary” HACCP teams, and here’s why.
- Symbiotic processes help achieve shared goals. Interdisciplinary team members are comfortable with cross-functional interactions. For instance, within an interdisciplinary team, a member from the production department would be aware of the organization’s vendor approval process and would partner with the acquisition department to fulfil an operational need without having to compromise on quality, safety, or compliance.
- Food safety management systems area easier to manage. Traditional multidisciplinary teams comprise members that operate independent of each other and frequently circle back with one another during a HACCP team meeting. This conventional approach requires an agile HACCP team leader to shoulder the responsibilities of auditing, reporting, briefing the team, and generating call-to-action points based on their prime focus in order to reduce food safety non-conformances. On the other hand, skilled interdisciplinary teams share responsibilities and are jointly accountable.
- Interdisciplinary teams facilitate better knowledge transfer. We are at the deep end of the digital pool where tons of data are being generated every day. New analytical systems are being developed to sieve through all the information and funnel them in the right channels. When it comes to process verification and validation, sharing expertise across the HACCP team facilitates better safety systems implementation and maintenance. Usually, HACCP team members encounter roadblocks when a member abruptly leaves the team. With bridged communications within cross-functional teams, this gap can be avoided and operations will not be impacted as much, compared to relying on a purely multidisciplinary team.
There is a growing need for evolving HACCP teams to make informed food safety and quality decisions in a collaborative fashion. With shifting paradigms, hopefully the number of interdisciplinary HACCP teams will grow.