ICM is a systems-approach to cleaning that incorporates measurement as a cornerstone of the process. A key to any improvement initiative is the ability to measure. As Alvin Toffler noted, measurement (and the information it provides) creates a power shift. It puts power back into the hands of users, who will now be able to separate fact from fiction, and accurately document performance. Custodians will no longer depend solely on the recommendations of manufacturers or even industry gurus; measurement will give them the data they need to prove if systems, products, processes or even ‘expert advice' truly live up to marketing and other claims.
The goal of every organization should be to create a system demanding high capability and continuous improvement; and then to manage the system for results or outcomes. You want to be able to design and equip the system for results and then prove that what you are doing is effective.
This is particularly true as custodial departments struggle with budget and staffing cuts. When companies need to reduce expenses, they often start with their janitorial staff. To combat this trend, you need to show the value of your department's documented system as well as the risks associated with altering the system through unwise meddling or resource reductions. The only way to do that is with data; and that means measurement.
By implementing ICM programs, housekeeping departments will be able to verify the results they achieve. In addition to tracking enhanced productivity – using time studies – you can now show levels of cleanliness and more, with new high-tech tools like ATP meters (in the absence of such precise and portable devices, this is something our industry could not easily do in the past.)
As organizations like the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) help to prove the link between cleaning and health, your measurements will confirm that you are not only cleaning your facilities, but enhancing the health and well-being of its occupants. And measurements will also reveal when system alterations or cutbacks threaten those benefits.
The ICM Cycle
Like any ongoing improvement process, ICM is not a 'destination' as much as a journey - toward cleaner, healthier buildings. By integrating measurement with systems of cleaning, ICM enables a cycle of what the Japanese call Kaizen, or continuous improvement. Anyone starting an ICM initiative will typically follow a four-step process:
1. Measure. Using new, cost-effective tools, users can take measurements in their facilities and quickly gain two valuable insights: which areas in the facility need to be cleaned most; and how well you are cleaning them now. This creates a baseline of current practices.
2. Compare. ICM establishes and provides benchmark data, based on scientific tests by participants. This data will be available through an ICM Web portal.
3. Experiment. In this phase, you try new things. Are there better ways to clean restrooms? Vacuum floors? Disinfect? What about removing pathogens from flat or irregular surfaces? As you experiment, you continue to measure. Are the new products or processes getting better results? Do the new methods improve your productivity? Does the system yield other measurable benefits?
4. Implement. The experimenting phase ends when you have found new operating methods - products, processes and/or procedures - that you want to make an ongoing part of your cleaning practice. You then take these new approaches and implement them. This brings you back to Step #1 'Measure', to monitor the effectiveness of your new ‘system', and seek ways to get even better.
Open Source Sharing
For some ICM companies, there will be a fifth step they can take as part of the complete cycle: sharing what they learn. ICM is an open source system approach to identify the best products and processes – based on the experiences of its users. One example of a successful open-source project is Wikipedia – the online encyclopedia where content is supplied by the Internet community of users. ‘Experts' claimed it would never work; it would be sheer anarchy and the results would be generally useless. Reality has proven otherwise, with the Wikipedia now considered by some on par with the best commercial knowledge resources like Britannica and Colliers.
Wikipedia showed it is possible to organize without a formal organization. Open source benefits occur when dedicated users conduct their research, improve their processes, then share their results. Open-source allows for self-generation of data, error-correction and new techniques that will enable the cleaning industry, as a whole, to innovate and then identify those practices that truly get results, based on measurement.
Where Measurement Science Meets Management
Importantly, ICM is a systems-improvement protocol that works with existing approaches. In fact, ICM methods can serve as a bridge between two noteworthy ongoing initiatives: ISSA's CIMS program and CIRI's clean standard. CIMS is designed to help companies create ISO-like management structures. The CIRI standard will provide scientifically-validated cleaning levels or targets that should be achieved in various facilities, starting with K-12 schools. But, how does a management team get its staff to actually realize the CIRI clean standards? That's where ICM comes in. By integrating measurement and cleaning, ICM will empower well-managed custodial staffs in the field to reach levels of cleaning that both improve a building's appearance and enhance the health of its occupants.
Communities of Practice
An open source approach also allows ICM to be flexible in terms of the different communities of practice that will grow up over time. We anticipate future communities will include significant numbers of custodians, facility service providers (FSP), building owners and occupants, as well as chemical and equipment manufacturers. The intrinsic value of open source is that it does not try to anticipate what a group of dedicated users will create, or the communities they will form. There is practical, profound wisdom in the saying that 'all of us are smarter than any of us.'