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Whenever you are assessing a service or task you need to bear in mind the concept of an operational definition. It is the operational definition that spells out what someone means when they ask for something or for something to be done. By way of example imagine I am standing by a table and I ask you to clean it. Before you grab a cloth you need to know the operational definition of what I am asking. Do I mean clean enough to eat dinner at? Clean enough to write a letter on? Clean enough to prepare food on? Clean enough to perform open-heart surgery on? Or even, clean enough to manufacture silicon chips on? Without an operational definition we can’t plan how to do something neither can we judge how well we have done it.

We can apply this to our organisations by asking what is the operational definition of the service we provide. Do we even have one? How do we know how to go about planning to provide the service and how to we judge how well it was provided? Note that it is important to write the operational definition from the point of view of the customer or user. Internally generated operational definitions only lead to confusion, bad service and frustration. Customer oriented operational definitions help toward clarity of purpose, good service and satisfaction for customers and staff alike.



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  1. João Paulo Pinto -

    Dear Bob

    My name is Joao Paulo Pinto and I am the manager of the Comunidade Lean Thinking (CLT), a non-profit organization devoted to create and transfer knowledge under the theme "Lean Thinking".

    I am inviting practitioners and academics to participate in the second International Congress Going Lean.

    The Going Lean Congress will take place in October (20/21) in Lisbon and
    we would like to have you as a speaker on the topic "Lean
    Services" (you may now choose a sub topic, ex. lean healthcare). The presentation time for each communication is about 30 min,
    and you can choose the day (20 or 21) to speak according to your

    Please lets us know if you are interested in participating in the second
    edition of the Going Lean Congress, or if want to nominate any one instead
    of you to make an oral presentation in this event.

    With our best regards,

    João Paulo Pinto
    Comunidade Lean Thinking

    Rua Cupertino de Miranda, 35 – 4Dto
    4760 124 VN Famalicão