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Transitioning from QA admin. assistant into QA Lead - any advice?

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#1 angelicab

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Posted 24 October 2017 - 11:47 PM

Hello IFSQN,

 

After being subscriber and frequent user of the IFSQN resources I have found myself needing these resources now more than ever! I say this because much of my use of this site was from the perspective of an administrative assistant to the QA department here at my facility - I was mainly using this site to inform myself while our Food Safety Manager and Food Safety Coordinator took the lead with creating all of the programs/policies and all coordinating documentation. I mainly took the wheel when it came down to revising/filing documentation.

(Also, keep in mind... I have never worked in a processing environment) 

 

However, due to changes in personnel I have found myself in the hot seat - I am now leading the QA department (crazy, right?!)

To begin, I inherited a food safety plan that got us through our first BRC audit (which I was able to participate in - overall it was a great learning experience!) and while this helped us achieve a D grade (ouch)... it was very clear to the auditor and our department heads that a great amount of work would need to be done in order to improve and maintain what is already there. 

 

All to say, I am finding myself feeling overwhelmed - I do not want to "re-invent the wheel" with this Food Safety Plan/Manual but - to be frank - it is not an accurate representation of what processes/policies that are now in place... the QA lead before me was very much a person who merely added things to policies without ever seeing them through (IE; during the audit, if a detail was missing on a policy he would simply sneak off - insert the missing detail - and present it to the auditor as if the missing detail was there all along...). So overall, not a very honest practice and unfortunately now he has wiped his hands clean of QA - leaving me to deal with the mess...

 

SO - IFSN I ask you all: What advice would you have for me? We are expecting another BRC audit in February of 2018 and, fortunately a consultation with a BRC Representative has been scheduled before then (so that is time for some major Q&A and direction from an expert) but I feel like I need more... I want to excel in this department as I am the last-standing representative for QA but I just don't know where to begin.... I was told by the last guy that "QA is project-based... you get to decide what you would like to work on" and while this mentality is somewhat relieving I feel quick to want to work on EVERYTHING (because it really needs it)!

 

S.O.S  :helpplease:

 

 


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#2 Tony-C

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Posted 25 October 2017 - 07:58 AM

Hi Angelica,

 

Sounds like 'in at the deep end'.

 

First of all I would make sure that the non-conformances from the last audit are closed and no longer an issue.

 

Next I would conduct a self assessment to identify what needs sorting out:

 

Attached File  F037a-brc-self-assessment-tool-issue-7-2.docx   192.54KB   16 downloads

 

From this you will have identified areas that need sorting out, prioritize them and come up with a plan to resolve them. Share that plan with the Management and get them on board with implementing the plan. If it requires extra resource to ensure compliance by the next audit then point this out.

 

Good Luck

 

Tony


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#3 angelicab

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Posted 25 October 2017 - 07:50 PM

Tony, 

 

"In at the deep end" - yep I feel like this.

 

Nevertheless, I greatly appreciate the advice, as well as the self-assessment you attached - I look forward to reviewing this and using it right away. Regarding the non-conformances from the last audit - these have all been addressed and resolved (our auditor gave us about 3 weeks after the audit to resolve them and he approved our corrections). Therefore, with this next audit in February I hope to start with a fresh clean slate and an improved food safety plan based on the changes that I made. 


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#4 Snookie

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Posted 25 October 2017 - 10:24 PM

Start with and continue using prayer, alcohol and chocolate.  These always help to keep perspective.  But even the longer timers run up against road blocks and difficult situations.  Keep breathing there are plenty of people to help.  


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#5 FurFarmandFork

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 07:20 PM

Be prepared for your battles to change. Instead of arguing for better controls etc. you now are in the role of arguing for funding, impact on other departments, getting "top level" buy in, and blocking for your people.

 

Just remember, the skills that brought you here won't necessarily make you successful in this new role. Focus on making your job building your team into people who had those same skillsets that brought you to your current position, and keep in mind that you need people to (at least partially) believe in what you're doing to make any real progress.

 

I'll also recommend "The new manager mindset". I'm in the middle of it and it's a good book to help you through the transition. And this one is written by a QA manager, so his examples are very relevant to your situation. If you email the author Bryan Armentrout, he may be able to send you a copy for only the price of shipping according to a recent interview I heard.

 

And not to make this post pluggy, but based on another great discussion here at IFSQN, I have a blog post about culture building you may find helpful.


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For discussions related to food safety, production, and agriculture. Check out my blog at http://furfarmandfork.com/.

 


#6 dfreund

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Posted 31 October 2017 - 12:10 PM

Leave the project approach behind you and focus on constant improvement.  You have passed on shaky ground if there were parts cut and paste just to pass.  build a foundation on the good elements, you know which ones that is. I expect you should review all documents for promises that can't or won't be implemented and get them out of your documents.  Find a way to meet the standards without patchwork.  when the document is right train it, train it train it.

focus on improving work habits and you will only have to live a "project" once.


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#7 adamperry2235

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Posted 31 October 2017 - 02:54 PM

The beauty of this is you have a guide already. Just be careful when you change too much as you will get pushback from everywhere. Finding the balance between QA and having everyone being active in what you are doing is going to be the hard part. You probably already know most of that. But you sound as though you know your system and how it should work. Now just make it go where you want to. All of these codes allow us some flexibility to make it ours. So do what is right for the company. Just remember nobody gets ahead trying to reinvent the wheel...but they have put tires on them to make the road smoother. Good Luck!!


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#8 angelicab

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Posted 31 October 2017 - 09:00 PM

Thank you everyone for all of your positive advice and encouragement, my heart is overwhelmed by all of your support!  :ejut:

 

The beauty of this is you have a guide already. Just be careful when you change too much as you will get pushback from everywhere. Finding the balance between QA and having everyone being active in what you are doing is going to be the hard part. You probably already know most of that. But you sound as though you know your system and how it should work. Now just make it go where you want to. All of these codes allow us some flexibility to make it ours. So do what is right for the company. Just remember nobody gets ahead trying to reinvent the wheel...but they have put tires on them to make the road smoother. Good Luck!!

 

adamperry2235 - this is incredibly helpful and encouraging! I feel as though you hit it right on the nail with the culture that I would like to establish for this company and that is to get everyone (upper management, production staff, line-packers, etc;) all on the same page and working towards a positive food safety culture! I really would like to integrate everyone in the quality process so as to empower them and motivate them to take all of this seriously. Food safety is very exhausting when it is simply one person leading the team - and while that is my role as a leader, I would like everyone to feel like they can take ownership of the policies, programs, procedures that I am introducing and they are implementing. I feel that achieving this is equivalent to "putting the tires on" to make the road smoother - BTW I LOVE that analogy and I will be using it to motivate me! 

 

Just earlier today I experienced pushback when trying to implement a procedure - we received results back from swabs of a piece of our equipment and according to the policy that is in place - this positive result (in theory) would decommission this piece of equipment and require further corrective action before this equipment could be used again. However, because this was halting production (and therefore losing $$) my decision to decommission this equipment was overridden by upper management. Here I am, trying to make real change happen and it was almost as if upper management said, "Hmm no. Not today." And frankly, this hurt and the investigation and work that I did felt useless considering I had asked for all of upper management's input and the decision to continue producing was made without my consent or let alone my feedback.  Nevertheless, I am still at my desk despite the pushback...  


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