Going commando would pay off for food manufacturers

By Damian McKinney

- Last updated on GMT

Food manufacturers could learn useful lessons from the military, writes former Royal Marine Damian McKinney
Food manufacturers could learn useful lessons from the military, writes former Royal Marine Damian McKinney
The world of food manufacturing and the soldier may seem very far apart at first glance, but they both operate in uncertain and rapidly changing environments, writes Damian McKinney, former Royal Marine and founder of business execution consultancy McKinney Rogers.

Food manufacturers face an intensely competitive market while the continuing horsemeat scandal is changing consumers’ shopping habits and causing supermarkets to be more vigilant. Its consequences will continue to reverberate for a long time to come.

Military training is all about enabling people to think quickly and to respond to rapidly changing events despite uncertainty. Strong values are an important part of this as they create a unity of purpose and culture.

When I left the Royal Marines to go into business, I was amazed to find that most businesses were far more “command and control”​ than the military and often values were just given lip-service. 

The military goes to war. The workforce goes to work. In war, people get killed and injured: it is not so bad in business, but companies still go under and people can have their livelihoods and wealth destroyed.

Here are five tips that I learnt in the military that will really help businesses that apply them – particularly in a challenging environment:

1Company values

What are the values of your company and is everyone clear? Not monetary values but beliefs. You should make your values personal and real – the product depends as much on the person in the production line as the executive in head office. Your employees need to have belief in the products you are producing and be committed to the cause. Make sure employees really understand these values and know why they are working towards certain objectives. A list on the noticeboard and an email is definitely not enough!

2 Objectives

Know where are you going and what are you trying to achieve. The numbers matter, but it is a vision that inspires. There is a lot of power behind an organisation that focuses on one vision. You want your company to have impact in its sector, and for people to talk about your achievements for years to come. No matter what you pay people, it is the vision that will inspire them to try their hardest.

 3 Clear roles

Is everyone clear on their role and how it helps the firm overall? It’s great to have everyone working towards one vision – but companies should ensure employees are also clear on their individual importance. Does HR know how it fits into helping your factory create great food or drink products? Does IT? People will have their own targets, but they must never be allowed to forget how they support your business’s goals.

4 Team spirit

Does your company have team spirit? It is a question you must ask and keep asking, you cannot allow it to leave the front of your mind. You can fuel team spirit by focusing on performance and involvement. Build the spirit to win. You might be working long days that start early and finish late in order to meet a strict deadline, but you must make sure that employees bond and hold a shared sense of being in the situation together – this will mean they will share the achievement too.

5 Effective leadership

You are a leader – you lead your team, your colleagues, your department. You need to constantly ask yourself if you are leading effectively. Leadership means holding back from excessive involvement in everyday detail. Trust others to deliver by providing them with direction and support. But be prepared to take the lead if the situation calls for it. As a leader you have to step forward and direct, not micro-manage. Live up to the responsibility of leadership.

  • Damian McKinney is a former Royal Marine and founder of business execution consultancy McKinney Rogers​. He is author of The Commando Way​, which looks at how business’s have been inspired to achieve great results through applying the commando way.

 

Five questions for top managers

1.            What are the values of your company and is everyone clear?

2.            Know where are you going and what are you trying to achieve?

3.            Is everyone clear on their role and how it helps the firm overall?

4.            Does your company have team spirit?

5.            Are you an effective leader?

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