The question our clients ask more frequently than any other question is, “What is the definition of clean?”
It should be an easy question to answer since the dictionary definitions are pretty straightforward: Clean: free from dirt, marks or stains.
However, as H.L. Mencken famously said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.”
Properly understood, defining “clean” is really a question of quality. Specifically, “What is an acceptable quality level?”
Philip Crosby, a leading contributor to management theory and quality management practice defined quality as “conformance to requirements, not as 'goodness.'”
This means being able to develop a precise definition of what the customer wants and can pay for.
In a perfect world, all customers would see the value of a perfectly clean building and view the associated cost as an investment.
The realities of the marketplace mean that there are tradeoffs.
Thus, it is possible to conform to the customer’s requirements without delivering a perfectly “clean” building.
ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) echoes Crosby’s philosophy.
Section 1.1.1 states: “There shall be a site-specific scope of work or performance outcome describing cleaning service requirements.”
Simply put, there are two things cleaning organizations need to do to achieve “quality.”
First, define customers’ requirements; and, second, validate conformance to those requirements.
Organizations must regularly measure themselves on their success in conformance to customer requirements.
Surveys, inspections, counting complaints and customer evaluations are some of the tools that CIMS identifies.
Measurement is essential because it is the only way for an organization to know if it is meeting the customer’s expectations and therefore, achieving an acceptable quality level.
To help organizations define clean, conform to that definition and then confirm conformance through measurement.
I have developed the following checklist:
The principles of CIMS are the starting point in building the framework for defining “clean” and setting an acceptable quality level. Ultimately, our customers set the requirements in each facility. By defining expectations and measuring performance, cleaning organizations can deliver the quality that customers expect and build long-term relationships.