Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Why You Should Stop Inspecting

September 19, 2010

In many cases, performance measurement traditionally consists of responding to complaints, often without really keeping score.

Yet, today, measuring performance is gaining attention.

And, as people focus on measuring service performance in the real estate industry, for example, the purpose of the inspection system needs to be clarified.

Let''s examine two main strategies managers use to do building service inspections and identify each strategy''s value.

There are essentially two reasons why people inspect: To find problems and fix them; and to find defects and fix the system to prevent problems.

The vast number of inspection programs found in the real estate industry center on finding problems and fixing them.

Far fewer people use inspection programs to implement system and process improvements as a strategy to prevent problems.

These two inspection strategies may appear equally valid.

The reality is that not all inspection efforts lead to increased performance and better quality.

Find And Fix Problems

What happens when a successful service contractor meets an unplanned problem?

Some possible scenarios are: The buyer could ask for extra work; absenteeism could reduce the number of available staff; or a flood or another disaster could occur.

Would extra staff be brought in to deal with these types of situations?

Our experience says usually not.

Through extensive research, we have concluded that people who know the building best are often assigned to resolve the issue, along with their regular work.

And, this can start a downward spiral in performance.

Let''s look at an example using 10 rooms that require 10 minutes per room for cleaning.

Because of absenteeism or another circumstance, the regularly assigned staff loses time and is not able to complete all the regular tasks required.

A "find it and fix it" inspection might then find five perfect rooms and 14 problems in other rooms as noted in red in Table 1:

There is a body of experience that says the more you inspect to find and fix problems, the worse performance and quality will get.

How could that be possible? It''s not only possible, but also predictable.

The red problems noted in Table 1 require one minute each to correct.

So, who will fix the problems?

If you guessed the regularly assigned staff, you are probably correct. But, that leaves a dilemma.

If the assigned staff expends 14 minutes to fix the problems, 86 minutes are left to do the work, which requires 100 minutes.

Will there likely be more or fewer problems in the rooms cleaned?

There is a high probability that there will be more problems because of inadequate available time.

If that is so, what problems might show up on the next inspection?

Each red problem in Table 2 also requires one minute to correct.

If the regularly assigned staff continues to fix problems, a larger dilemma looms.

If the staff must expend 21 minutes to fix problems, 79 minutes remain to do the work, which makes our example under-staffed by 21 percent.

If the staff expends 79 minutes to do the work that requires 100 minutes, are there more or fewer problems in the rooms cleaned?

Once again, there is a high probability that more problems arise because of even less available time.

If so, what problems might show up on the next inspection?

Again, the red problems in Table 3 continue to require one minute each to correct and issues abound if the regularly assigned staff is again assigned to fix problems.

If the assigned staff expends 23 minutes to fix problems, that leaves 77 minutes to do the work — under-staffed by 23 percent.

Again, there is a high probability that more problems will arise because of even less available time.

If that is so, what problems might show up on the next inspection?

We''ll examine the issue further next month.


Vincent F. Elliott is the founder, president and CEO of Elliott Affiliates, Ltd. of Hunt Valley, MD, www.ealtd.com. 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.