The concept of “lean” is about eliminating waste from the workplace. Cleaning organizations can use lean principles to improve the workforce without eliminating employees, and instead, focus on improving efficiency.
Here are five steps to building people to produce clean, healthy environments through lean cleaning:
- Know the goal and define value. Discuss your goals for the organization and the facilities you clean with your workers and customers, then build consensus and arrive at a mission statement (or goal) and value proposition. The result should be unique to your operation and all-encompassing, such as, “We will produce clean, healthy, attractive, and cost-effective facilities by first understanding, then addressing customer needs and desires, and delivering consistent, high-quality cleaning by eliminating defects and variability in the cleaning process.” Consider each cleaning task a value stream for refinement.
- Break the job into small bits and pieces. Identify and diagram the value stream to eliminate waste. Simplify jobs by identifying each and every crucial step, and eliminate waste or backtracking.
- Eliminate wasted steps and achieve flow.
The chart at the top of this page illustrates how to reduce waste and enter “flow.” Apply the principles to develop a dusting flow chart, a restroom flow chart, a floor care flow chart, and more. Work with team associates to create these process-flow charts—eliminate unneeded stop-start or task-switching interruptions—and apply them throughout your operation.
- Standardize and improve. Standardize best practices based on the current learning or advancement point. The goal of standardizing is to ensure cleaning jobs are done the same way every time for consistent outcomes. Standardizing levels out the workload so each team member works steadily but not excessively hard. Standardizing also provides the basis for shared improvements.
The team can only achieve continuous improvement when it understands its current actions and what it can do to get better. With permission, create video of in-field work processes for team members’ critiques, then adopt team improvement suggestions and incorporate them into the new improved standard.
- Tap tacit knowledge and share it with the team. Tacit knowledge is knowledge gained by experience—often internalized but not always spoken—and imparted through a buddy system of training and association with accomplished team members. Arrange for experienced team members to work with new hires and those who need coaching to help team associates grow and realize their potential.
Lean cleaning is about streamlining processes with worker input. Workers in lean cleaning work smarter—not harder. When management challenges and supports workers in their growth to adopt a set of active behaviors and practices, they can reach higher levels of greenness, healthfulness, quality, and cost-effectiveness together.