Most consultants, whether internal or external, can relate with changes to project scopes, deliverables, and timelines in the midst of implementing a food quality and/or safety system because of mismatched client-consultant expectations. The intake process is pivotal when it comes to setting realistic and measurable goals, calculating risks involved, and mapping necessary resources to see a food safety management system to fruition.
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As a consultant, it is your responsibility to ensure that the task force is equipped for the system implementation project by executing an effective intake. Below are some industry intake best practices to reinforce consultant-client relationships.
Set Strategic Scopes
It’s a great idea to discuss business values to ensure alignment while covering the scope of the project. The current competitive market evolves around culture, value, and community involvement. Take food safety culture for example; more food businesses are recognizing the need for generations to gel rather than collide within the work environment for the shared success of safety and quality management systems.
Coach, Coach, and Coach Some More
In the world of safety and quality, trainings are often bridged with compliance. A deviation or a non-conformance signals the business to roll out more trainings. Rarely, if ever, is coaching involved. Coaching, if carried out correctly and often enough, provides the team with a platform to talk about improvements, weed out conflicts, and prepare themselves better for the next intake. Intakes involve team effort—from first contact, client info documentation, and even reviewing the checklist to ensure key touch points are met to set the right expectations. Even if you work with just one other member on your team, coach them to support your intake processes better. For instance, here are a few questions to illustrate forward thinking:
- What are the talking points that you would cover for a fish farm versus a frozen seafood distributor? Would the risks involved be the same?
- What are the recent risks that surfaced in the last six months that might potentially affect your client? Does your intake form or checklist reflect these talking points?
A Site Visit Always Helps
I had clients in the past contact me in a haste to fix a safety system that was poorly implemented because it was not designed for the specific site, nor did it have the basic menu mix under consideration. Food businesses have a unique dynamic of being both the producer and the consumer within the operational matrix. A thorough knowledge of end-to-end processes will help you set realistic goals and project deliverables. Also, site visits don’t have to be limited to just one—interacting with more people on the floor results in asking more questions. Each visit will help you paint a sharper picture.
The Consultant Wears Many Hats
Your client counts on your advice because you are the reliable resource and are well versed in your field. A thorough intake involves technical know-how, sharing data trends, and a blend of project management coupled with change management skills. Identify who the early adopters of the new system are and partner with them during the system roll out. Calling out mutually agreed roles will cement the scope of the system implementation or revision. Establishing these relationships during the intake process will result in developing a self-sustaining safety and quality system.
What are some of your client intake best practices? Comment below!