Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Part One: Team versus Zone Cleaning

September 19, 2010
Before I address this important topic of cleaning strategies let me ask, What is “fact-based management”?

I believe that the key to improving the odds of making better management decisions lies in our ability to distinguish between information based on assumptions and opinion and that based on facts.

While personal experience and attitudes are useful and subjectively meaningful, they do not often reflect a broader, more objective test of validity and verification.

The differences between opinion-based and fact-based management are striking, as noted in the following table:


I am committed to helping leaders become better managers through finding, analyzing, and presenting fact-based information about facility support services.

We have gathered a wealth of data about our industry and we’ve verified and tested the assumptions to clarify the facts.

Our goal is to present the findings from the studies we can evaluate and stand behind.

On the other hand, if you have a question and are looking for answers, let me know; we will do whatever we can to find the facts and report back to you.

I hope that you will find value in this endeavor.

For those of us old enough to remember, I’ll echo Sergeant Joe Friday who asked for and reported “the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

Team vs. Zone
There has been a growing interest in the concept of Team vs. Zone cleaning strategies, with the underlying question about whether these strategies are really better, or worse, than current cleaning practices.

Which cleaning system would you trust and which system would you offer, as the service provider?

To add hard data to this discussion, we conducted a nationwide benchmark study of these different service models.

Our approach has been to develop reliable metrics for the evaluation of cleaning system alternatives, select an appropriate facility profile for inclusion in our study, summarize our findings objectively and suggest reasonable conclusions about the effectiveness of the alternative approaches to cleaning.

The balance of this two-part column offers an exploration of our benchmark work and strives to identify the casual factors at play.

Rules for finding performance measures
We established four requirements for defining a metric for cleaning performance: Adhere to management and occupant expectations for a “clean” or “not clean” condition; be easily understood by the cleaning worker (KISS); be connected to the process, steps, and activities used; and be an objective measure.

None of the alternative performance measurement systems we evaluated met our criteria for all four components as presented.

Our study metrics combined each of these elements in the final choice of what was measured.

Metrics selected
Once we established the requirements for defining the metrics to be used in our study, specific measures of performance were used to determine our data and develop our findings.

At the end of this preliminary work, we selected the following metrics, as a basis for evaluating the performance of the facilities included in our study.

These metrics are:
  • Cleanliness quality
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Operational productivity
  • Financial cost
We are not claiming universal or mystic insight to any of these measures.

We are not demeaning any other metrics or evaluation systems.

There is no claim that any of these are right or wrong or good or bad.

They are (after much consideration) what we have chosen as a basis for comparing the performance of a variety of cleaning systems.

And, I feel that it is important that you understand our assessment criteria.

We posed several key questions for study and focused on the different approaches and models for the delivery of cleaning services to understand how each of these alternative strategies seem to perform.

Now that the criteria and goals are set-up, in the next issue of CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management, we will discuss the profile of the facilities we surveyed and the findings.

Find out which cleaning system is right for your operations.


Vincent F. Elliott is the founder, president and CEO of Elliott Affiliates, Ltd. of Hunt Valley (Baltimore), MD. He is widely recognized as a leading authority in the design and utilization of best practice performance-driven techniques for janitorial outsourcing and on-going management.