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4 Parts of Culture that Impact Total Operational Performance

By Intertek Alchemy   |   

Based on his 30+ years of experience in the food industry, expert consultant Jeff Chilton has developed a holistic approach to continuous performance improvement called the Total Operational Performance System (TOPS). TOPS is an integrated management system that helps food organizations optimize performance throughout the entire company with the goal of achieving operational excellence. How? By prioritizing food and workplace safety, quality, yield, and productivity — in that order.But as anyone in the food industry knows, facilities often become so focused on maximizing yield and productivity that safety and quality are put on the back burner. This is where performance culture enters the picture. Performance culture plays an integral role in the success of TOPS because it determines exactly how and when processes are implemented and applied. Jeff pinpoints four integral parts of performance culture, each impacting the way TOPS is practiced from top to bottom within an organization.


Commitment begins with plant management, but it must spread throughout the organization in order to have an impact. First, management must commit to providing the time and resources to employees so that they have the knowledge they need — adequate training is key here. Companies must also commit to putting priorities in the correct order (safety and quality before yield and productivity). Everyone must understand this prioritization, and all departments should work together to achieve the same goal. It’s important that departments not operate in silos, but instead, work in unison as a team.



The goal with behavior is to get employees to do the right thing, even when no one is looking. The key to ensuring the right behaviors is to adequately train employees in the first place and then reinforce the training to ensure that it sticks. Employees must both know what to do and have the confidence to actually do it. Food companies are only as strong as their weakest link, so they want to ensure that every employee is doing the right thing as close to 100% of the time as possible.




Individuals are influenced by their peers, and food companies should take advantage of the positive energy that is innate in teamwork. Empower employees to work together as a team and involve them in the TOPS process. Ask for their feedback on what can be done better, and have them set goals. Promote, encourage, and reward the teamwork that is necessary to make the system successful.



There are three tiers of service that influence performance culture. First, consider customer service — Food companies want to ensure their customers are fully satisfied with the product they provide. Next, service to peers is important —  encourage team members to think in terms of “we” instead of “they.” Interdepartmental communication is vital here — all business functions need to work together and help each other to be successful. Finally, service upward and downward drives culture — employees should be motivated to help their companies optimize performance and be successful, and management must mirror that motivation and dedication.

As companies work towards achieving operational excellence, they should avoid making the mistake of overlooking performance culture. By strengthening commitment, behavior, teamwork, and service, they’ll nurture a strong performance culture that will provide the foundation for total operational improvement.

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