Setting clear goals in your dental practice will help your team develop focus and work to meet those goals. Leadership and clear communication are key elements in the successful implementation of goals.
This article originally appeared in Dental Assisting & Office Manager Digest. Subscribe to the monthly e-newsletter here.
I remember attending continuing educationcourses as a hygienist and looking forward to implementing the new ideas and technologies in the practice when I returned. But more often than not, days turned into weeks before we even spoke about what we’d learned.
As a result, we rarely implemented our new knowledge in the practice. Sound familiar? It should. The Harvard Business Review revealed that less than 30% of people successfully implement change initiatives, meaning that failure to implement change occurs more often than success. While studying why some practices succeed and others struggle, I found the following key elements are needed to ensure successful implementation of new protocols in your practice.
The first element is to have a clear vision. Where are you going and why is it worth the effort? It’s not enough to say, “We need to increase collections by $10,000 per month.” It is critical that your team realize why this is important. Do you need to increase profitability, invest in technology, or do a build-out? Knowing this information helps your team buy in to your goals, and also allows for better morale during implementation because there’s clarity about the goal.
Be clear about your strategy of how to achieve your vision. How are you going to accomplish your objective? Who will complete the tasks? Is it something that can be automated or outsourced? What’s the target date? When does this need to be accomplished? If you do not have a clear vision for completion, then it is a dream, not a goal.
A vision is taken seriously only when it can be scheduled and measured. If it is important then it should be scheduled. For example, if it is important to follow up on unscheduled hygiene patients, then make sure time is allotted each month for this task. You can schedule time on the last day of the month to meet this goal and then cancel the time if it was completed sooner. This ensures that contacting patients each month will be completed because the time is scheduled.
How will the results be measured? How will you know when you have achieved the desired result? Almost anything can be measured, but the measurement needs to be established. For example, if your goal is to increase referrals, you could have a quota for each team member to ask for a set number of referrals per day, then track where new patients are coming from.
Another element of successful implementation is strong leadership. Who is leading the practice, and are they leading by example? This could be the doctor or office manager, but leadership is a key component to ensuring successful implementation. If the protocol is to ask for referrals, then the leadership needs to do this as well. If you lead, your team will follow.
Strong leaders aren’t afraid to hold others accountable. When team members are not following the protocol, it’s essential to ask them about it. If you do not address the team member who is not following the protocol, the rest of the team will take note and also stop. Accountability is essential.
A final key element involves communication. In an ideal scenario, communication is pretty much nonexistent in dental practices. (I say this is ideal because it means everyone is busy serving patients.) However, it also means that team meetings are essentially the only time that team members communicate. When introducing a new protocol and people have questions, team members will hold off on implementation until they can have their questions answered. This means waiting until the next team meeting.
Having a place to regularly communicate is important to ensure progress. You could use a white board with cork to hang information and documents, and use the white board to “talk” back and forth. By hanging this in a central location, all team members can have their questions answered quickly. You can use instant messaging, though I do not recommend it because it’s difficult to search and find information after it’s been shared. There are also online programs available to help dental teams communicate more efficiently.
It takes intention to beat the odds and not be “normal.” If you focus on casting a clear vision, delegating, communicating, and holding each other accountable, you will successfully create the practice you envision.