Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Creating A Cleaning Standard

March 23, 2011

There''s a lot of talk about it, and even some initiatives to define a cleaning standard; and that''s an extraordinary challenge.

Don''t get me wrong, defining standards is a good idea.

And, there are three concepts that this initiative might add to their deliberations: Dr. Deming''s quality concepts, the standard continuum idea and the common standard.

Standards Become Limitations

If you''re familiar with the founding concepts of quality measurement and management, then you''ve heard of W. Edward Deming, the father of the U.S. quality movement.

Dr. Deming was an early pioneer in creating the Japanese quality movement and, in recognition of his impact on that country, they created the Deming Prize for those companies that have achieved extraordinary quality in the delivery of services and the production of products.

He is well-known for his 14 points for quality.

These points form the basis for creating and delivering amazing quality.

The American Society of Quality (ASQ) went on to establish the American Quality Award, known as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Deming''s contribution is evident, even in this American Quality Award model.

Deming''s 14 points are a valuable reference when trying to create standards of any kind, even for cleaning.

His points 10 and 11 are relevant for those narrowly focused on creating the best of the best cleaning standard.

  • Deming''s point 10

    Eliminate slogans, exhortations and targets for the workforce.

  • Deming''s point 11

    Eliminate numerical quotas for the workforce and numerical goals for management.

It''s not a far stretch to view targets, quotas or goals in the context of numerical standards.

This is particularly true for the emerging science of measurement of cleaning efficacy, such as using adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meters, particle counters, volatile organic compound (VOC) readings and more.

While targets are worthwhile, Deming''s view is that these numerical targets can create a barrier to improving performance beyond the standard.

From his perspective, it creates the management attitude that “once the standard is reached, we''re done.”

This is an idea that those developing a standard might consider.

Will the standard become a barrier to further progress?

The Standard Continuum

There might be a trap in thinking that there is one grand definition that is the one and only best standard.

And, this may or may not be true.

It is difficult to subscribe to the notion that there is one standard metric that does it all.

Rather, my sense is that all standards are tied to some kind of measurable verification and that these measures are tied to the measurement strategy adopted.

There could be four or more categories of measurement as a basis for setting standards:

  • Financials
  • Customers
  • Visual appearance
  • Contamination levels.

The strategies for measuring in these categories are extensive and not all are understood or used.

Check in next month for the conclusion of “Creating A Cleaning Standard.”

Vincent F. Elliott is the founder, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Elliott Affiliates Ltd. of Hunt Valley, Maryland. For more information, visit He is widely recognized as the leading authority in the design and utilization of best practice, performance-driven techniques for janitorial outsourcing and ongoing management.