Safe Food

by Jan Yuill

Leslie Gaines-Ross wrote in her blog on December 4th about the recent Maple Leaf Crisis here in Canada. I too was impressed with how Michael McCain, CEO of the largest Canadian meat company, handled the crisis of having 20 listeriosis deaths tied to his company. He took immediate action, accepted full responsibility, and, as Gaines-Ross said, communicated, communicated, communicated. He held tightly to the reins and guided the company through the ordeal.

My take on the public perception of Maple Leaf Foods today is that it is a company with integrity.

Looking through the Organizations Alive! lens …

What can we learn from Mr. McCain’s leadership? The four Success Factors of the Organizations Alive! Model can help us to see how his balanced response kept things on course …

  1. Membership Potential – Mr. McCain is obviously a man of integrity. In order to hold true to his ethics and values in a time of crisis, as he did, he must be clear about what they are; be committed to them; and allow them to guide his actions.
  2. Strategic Vision – The Strategic Principles of Maple Leaf Foods are described as:
    1. Add value for our customers
    2. Add value to our products
    3. Invest in leading marketing shares
    4. Build our brands
    5. Innovate
    6. Drive costs out
    7. Diversify globally … The first two were severely challenged by the events that took place. If these were not guiding principles, but just nice words, Mr. McCain may have surrendered to the advice of his legal and accounting departments, and tried to save Maple Leaf’s neck.
  3. Resource Management – Mr. McCain closed the plant, recalled products, and has since instituted sanitizing regulations, employee training, a food safety advisory council, and hired a chief food safety officer.
  4. Customer Service – He thought first of customers and employees, and second of liabilities, legalities, public relations, and their reputation.

Much is revealed in the interactions between the four Success Factors when we consider what took place.

I agree with Ms. Gaines-Ross, it is a textbook crisis management case study for those of us interested in them.