Toyota's Way Lean Management Principles for Virtual Executive Assistance
A couple of years ago, I read the 14 Principles of Lean Management and until today I am inspired by this brilliant book. Lean principle #6 is my favourite as it hits the nail right on the head. It goes like this –
"Standardised tasks and processes are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment."
Being in the business of increasing productivity for our clients, continuous improvement is something me and my team are constantly talking about and working towards achieving.
One may think that an Executive Assistant's role is so broadly generalised that they are expected to do just about anything that comes their way, including collecting their manager's laundry! So, the question arises – how do you even begin to standardise a function like this? And further make it lean? Let me share an example of our Virtual Executive Assistance service in specific with consulting companies in the UAE.
Over the years of working with management consultants, knowing what their business demands from them, what their organisational structures are like, we have built a robust list of tasks that are repetitive. After identifying the repetitive tasks we have gone a step further to identify what is the ideal time to complete them and if we complete them in the desired time, how satisfied our client will be? Drawing from several past instances we have been able to build what we call the Platinum Level of Service.
We know that the consulting companies are looking at achieving cost plus space plus time optimisation while looking for business support staff. We also acknowledge the fact that in the long run a consistent delivery and seamless support is what creates successful partnership.
With the goal of providing Platinum Level of Service every-time, instead of training an entire workforce to handle all types of tasks, we have designed VEA teams that can handle different levels of tasks. Along with tasks at hand the VEA is also well-equipped, through constant training, to navigate organisational cultures and work with multiple personalities.
Just like Toyota's Lean management principles, we identify repetitive tasks that a Partner or a Project Manager at the consulting company is expecting to be done and the document response time expected. With the documented steps, we design a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that allows us to maintain service quality to be at the optimum level, every time.
Providing business support for a consulting company means providing as little downtime for the support staff as possible. That is why consulting companies get high return on investment by outsourcing business support to a professional virtual executive assistance team as that means absolutely no downtime at all. There is always an able experienced team member available to pick up the tasks and deliver accurately.
As William A. Foster said, "Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives."
Leading a full support VEA team, one of my goals is to consistently deliver high quality of service levels we promise our clients by choosing the best way to quantify our work while staying on-track to continuously improve.
At Platinum VA, we value our team members as we know they are the ones in the process daily who are resolving issues, thinking on-the-go, analysing the issues and innovating. We put the onus of initiating the continuous improvement on the assistants and as their team leader I am inspired by the collective organisational learning we create through these practices.