How to Create Long-Term Change Through Quality Assessment

A five-step approach to improving your cleaning operations

quality assessment

The arrival of the new decade presents a fresh opportunity to dive deep into your cleaning organization’s operations and expectations. A thorough quality assessment can reveal valuable insight about the strengths and stability of your operation as well as weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.

It is easy to lose sight of the big picture when the daily routine of solving the emergency of the minute becomes habit. By taking inventory with the big picture in mind, you will notice systemic problems that affect productivity and create energy drains. This holistic approach is important if you desire long-lasting improvements and culture change.

Regular assessment will help you improve outcomes on your key performance indicators throughout the year and find actionable items you can document and complete.

Complete an assessment by allocating blocks of time, which varies depending on the size and complexity of your operation, to remove yourself from your daily tasks and view the pieces of your operation as interconnected components of a whole system.

Cleaning operations managers may wonder where they will find these blocks of time, but this mindset is exactly what leads to missed opportunities to gain long-term sustainable improvement. Not assessing the big picture can lead to spending too much time working day-to-day, not focused on the critical components of the long-term mission.

Step 1: Engage the right people

Choose organized, knowledgeable people to either guide you or help conduct the quality assessment. Your personal bias about how well or how poorly things are going can skew your results. An onsite assessment by a third party can provide valuable outsider perspectives and takes personality out of the equation.

Step 2: Determine the quality assessment’s scope

After deciding to look at your program objectively, create the scope of your assessment. Avoid scope creep and other factors that can cause the assessment to lose focus. For example, when deciding which spaces of your organization to look at, you may want to have a data set of several restrooms in each building, not every restroom you service. Be sure not to increase the number of restrooms assessed without identifying additional resources.

In other words, avoid scope definition that includes looking at every space in every building. Remember, your time is valuable. Determine which locations, areas, space types, and shifts are included in the assessment.

Step 3: Know what to include in the quality assessment

Next, make a list of the functions you will assess. At a minimum, you will want to evaluate the following:

Process. Identify the cleaning processes. If you don’t have a documented process, it’s difficult to get repeatable results and it’s extremely hard to get consistent results. Determine what is your staff doing, what equipment and chemical they’re doing it with, and if they are trained properly to perform the work.

Appearance. Measure appearance on a scale that allows you to put a value on how something looks. Typically these values are represented by yes/no, one through five, or other ranges. Keep in mind numeric rating scales provide a deep level of itemization but yes/no only allows two choices. Use information gathered from the
rating to create a baseline of appearance values. Repeated assessment can generate trend lines to show continuous improvement for your

Logistics. Assessing cleaning logistics helps identify how the process is set up and how it gets deployed. UPS and FedEx are experts at moving items from point A to point B. By assessing logistics, they have found the most efficient ways to move millions of packages. In a cleaning program, logistics pinpoint where people start, where they finish, and the transportation they use, as well as closet locations, work routes through a building, non cleaning tasks, and anything else that impacts the cleaning process.

Effectiveness. When something is deemed effective, it has an intended or expected outcome. Effectiveness measures whether you are getting the desired outcome in factors you can readily see. Depending on the nature of the work performed and the level of risk, cleaning effectiveness can also be measured with equipment that reveals factors that are present but not visible.

Tolerance. When conducting the assessment, keep a keen eye on factors that affect cleaning tolerance. Remember that different facilities have different cleanliness standards and expectations. The cleanliness tolerance at a bus depot is different than the cleanliness tolerance in a hospital operating room.

Step 4: Evaluate—It’s go-time!

With your assessment tool in hand, it’s finally time to evaluate and document your organization’s practices. Don’t announce you are conducting an assessment, as people may behave differently than they normally do, and you will not get an accurate picture. If your objective is to see the realities of your operation, approach the task unobtrusively to keep people from being alarmed.

As you collect the data, pay close attention to the relative strength of what you observe. You may want to categorize what you see into four different groups:

  • What the organization is really doing well (be sure to celebrate that success!)
  • Which systems can be strengthened and replicated
  • Which areas require improvement with corrective action
  • Which areas need immediate attention.
  • You will use this information in your next step.

Step 5: Plan for the possibilities

Envision what is possible from each aspect of your organization. This is where the best practices compiled by experts within associations like ISSA can be extremely helpful. In this step, create an ideal map of the exact outcomes you would like your cleaning operation to achieve. You can reference the same list of attributes that you created for your assessment tool. You may want to include key stakeholders in this process, such as executive management or customers, depending on your particular structure and role.

Once you have outlined your assessment (Steps 1 and 2), actual practices (Step 3) and your ideal picture of where you want your organization to go (Step 4), you can embark on a systematized process of integrating change within your operation. By taking a holistic approach to your assessment and making sure you have accounted for all processes and variables, you can implement the kind of change that truly lasts—change that includes your processes, appearances, logistics, effectiveness, tolerance, and culture.

The approach to long-lasting change

Organizations that attempt to create massive change after collecting the results from just one assessment typically fail in making their changes stick. A cleaning organization is a dynamic and living thing that incorporates thousands of moving parts. An unseen weakness in one area of an organization can easily create a ripple effect throughout the operations. It’s important to look across all aspects of your organization while implementing your assessment and prepare for a stable approach to change.

Conducting regular assessments, either with your own tool or through an assessment conducted by a certifying arm such as ISSA’s Cleaning Change Solutions, creates improvements in practice, which lead directly to improvements in strength and stability, as well as service and profitability.

Tim Poskin

Tim Poskin is founder and systems integrator of ISSA’s Cleaning Change Solutions™ Consulting and serves as the executive director of the ISSA Workloading and Benchmarking Council. Poskin may be reached at

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