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Thoughts on Announced Assessments

In the food safety auditing arena, there are two camps: those who believe firmly in announced audits, and those who believe that audits should be unannounced, or a surprise to the locations. Rarely, however, is there a strategy discussed that involves both. At Steritech, we believe that a food safety or operational assessment program can benefit from this mixed strategy because it allows for a new level of transparency as to what is really happening at locations.

When it comes to announced audits, there are many stakeholders that have an opinion. For example, some think it’s fair to announce the assessment if the program has changed significantly and use the round as a teaching and relationship-building event. Others see it as a waste: Heck, the locations know you’re coming so they really step it up – the score for an announced assessment is no reflection of what’s really going on, so it’s a waste of money.

Perhaps. But we happen to believe you should mix in an announced round about once every two years. Because it tells you something you don’t otherwise know: it tells you what is possible. No matter how a location achieves a score for an announced round, they’ve demonstrated what they’re capable of. And you discover not only what’s possible at that specific location, but what’s possible across an entire system. And that’s a benchmark that provides valuable insight.

You see, despite the assessment being announced, locations typically don’t achieve a perfect score. Which begs the question: Why not? It certainly wasn’t because they were surprised.

The gap between announced assessment scores and a flawless score illuminate OPERATIONAL issues – gaps in process, training or equipment. After all, the team knew an assessment was coming and still couldn’t get everything right. And these operational issues are things you can focus on and address systemically.

The gap, then, between unannounced scores and announced scores illuminates a different issue: an issue of WILL. This can be addressed through better hiring, stronger leadership, or a refocused incentive program.

If you deploy a program by mixing in announced assessments occasionally, over time you can track three things: a team’s performance, a team’s demonstrated capability and trending improvement. And as I see it, the goal of any assessment program should be to do more than simply monitor compliance. It should be to drive improvement.

We’d love to hear thoughts from you on how announced assessments might go over in your business. Want to weigh in? Email us at [email protected]

by Doug Sutton, President, Steritech Brand Standards Business

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