Welcome to what amounts to Episode 4 of ‘Bad Performance Measurement on Tour’.
Stooping to new lows for material, this post examines the underlying assumptions behind those charts you sometimes see in pub and restaurant toilets that record how regularly they have been cleaned, and by whom. At face value, they would appear to be a transparent method of demonstrating that the company cares about keeping their facilities clean and hygienic. Nothing wrong with that is there?
I’ve seen a couple of contrasting examples of this type of thing recently; however I am not in the habit of lurking around public toilets taking photos (despite what you might have heard in the press), so I’ve re-created them below. Here’s the first:
This sort of thing is pretty common, but what does it tell us? Well, it may not be obvious at first but it suggests to me that theÂ management here don’t trust the toilet cleaner. It also suggests that the management like to measure the wrong things. Measuring inputs in this way (i.e. the number of times the toilets are cleaned), rather than whether they are actually clean, misses the point.
The rigid cleaning schedule reflects inflexible policy and the imposition of a one-size-fits-all solution to a problem that is not properly understood by management. This approach ignores variation and is rooted more in a desire to micromanage the poor toilet cleaner, rather than achieve purpose from the customer’s perspective. By understanding predictable demand, it may wellÂ be that an understanding is gainedÂ of when the toilets are actually most likely to require cleaning.
Furthermore, 30 minute intervalsÂ are totally arbitrary. Taken literally,Â strict adherence to this schedule introduces waste into the system, as cleaningÂ will be unnecessary on some occasions. You will see that at 8am and 10am, the toilets weren’t cleaned. Who knows why? In any case, the world didn’t end. Conversely, there is nothing to say that they couldn’t suddenly become ‘messed up’ more than once during one of the half-hour segments. In addition to this, a lazy or dishonest toilet cleaner could quite easily sign the sheet without doing the work. If challenged about the condition of the toilets, he or she could quite easily claim that, “They were okay when I checkedÂ them 10 minutes ago”.
What I’m saying is that there is no advantage to maintaining suchÂ a contemporaneous public record of cleaning. If the toilets are dirty, they are dirty, whether or not they were last cleaned on schedule. If they are clean, they are clean, whether or not the cleaner signed the form. What matters is that the condition of the toiletsÂ is monitored and the cleaner does his or her best to keep them clean. Managers counting inputs and requiring the cleaner to report back on routine activity is misguided and superfluous to achieving purpose. Just let the cleaner do his or her job and use the right measures to assess performance.
This brings me to the other toilet sign I saw recently. Here’s a mock-up:
Now this, in my opinion, is much better. It’s adaptive to the customer and focused towards purpose. The person responsible for checking the toilets will still do so, but is afforded the latitude to clean them when they need cleaning, rather than at the behest of a regimented schedule. The notice also conveys to the customer that the company cares about the condition of the toilets and will respond if they need cleaning outside of one of the arbitrary 30-minute segments. There is no unnecessary bureaucracy of reporting back confirmation of routine activity, and no managerial obsession with controlling the cleaner through counting inputs. If the toilets need cleaning, they get cleaned – if they don’t, they don’t.