By Laing Rikkers and Cathy Jameson
Adopting new technology is more than making the purchase. The benefits will hinge on how successfully the technology is integrated into your practice. For you to reap the benefits of a more efficient technology — less chair time, greater productivity, more consistent outcomes — you and your team must be prepared to accept and embrace the change. Managing team expectations and roles, facilitating training and providing a forum for feedback and questions is crucial to maximizing your investment. We have all been in practices where there is a large piece of equipment in the corner gathering dust because the team never fully embraced the new technology. Even the most brilliant technology is useless without the power of motivated people!
Getting your team on board with new technology
Define the new workflow with modifications to incorporate the technology. What will be different? Who is directly responsible for something new and what exactly is expected of them? Step by step, determine who does what and in what order. Then, solicit their input in a meaningful, interactive way such as in a team meeting or a catered-in lunch.
Meet together to talk through the new systems. This will give you a way to carefully address any objections while also helping your team have a clear view of what is and is not going to take place with the new technology. Anxiety drops and excitement rises.
Objections such as “Oh, that is just going to add hours to my day and I don’t have time for that” can be worked out when your team realizes it’s only going to add a few minutes, and it actually saves a step somewhere else or helps build the practice and adds to the positive atmosphere.
Likewise, your team may point out something to you that results in a wise adjustment to your proposed new system. Working together as a team to agree on what comes next will always lead you to a healthier place of communication as you all work together to implement your new ideas.
Ah, there it is, that C word — communication.Great communication really does lead to great production. Take time to carefully convey the value of the new technology to your most important audience: your own team. If you are not that comfortable with words, just do your best. Bring in the initial rep or trainer, if applicable, to help fill in the gaps. Give your team a vision and a plan. They will sense your excitement and commitment.
It’s important to address concerns your team members may have — not only during your initial brainstorming about the new systems that will need to be in place to make the technology work well, but in a follow-up meeting or through casual interactions. From job security fears to training reactions, your team needs to know they can come to you and keep evolving with the changing systems. So, embrace the C-word — communicate, communicate, communicate!
Maximize training and support systems to thrive during change
Very soon after your initial discussion with the team about the new technology, it’s important that you hold a formal training session. While there are exceptions, we find that practices with the greatest success plan for ongoing training. So, don’t think you can make your announcement, send everyone to some training, and be done. You’ll be training on this in an ongoing way. Be sure to plan for individual instruction that is tailored to each position.
Regular support is as important as regular training. Provide a way for your team to ask questions and get feedback and help. Whether from you, another expert member of your team, and/or a vendor/rep, you’ll need to make sure your team has a place to turn to for answers.
Expect people to work through the different emotional stages associated with change:
1. Stage 1 — Shock (You’ve just changed my job responsibilities and now you’re asking me to do something out of my comfort zone.)
2. Stage 2 — Denial (I bet this won’t work and we will go back to how we’ve always done it.)
3. Stage 3 — Anger (It is so annoying that you are changing how it’s always been done. Nothing was wrong with how we’ve always done it.) Some may actively resist, attack the change, or hold back innovation.
4. Stage 4 — Passive acceptance (I suppose this is really happening, like it or not. I might as well embrace it — or at least look the part.)
5. Stage 5 — Exploration (I wonder what this technology might let us accomplish that we weren’t able to do before.)
6. Stage 6 — Challenge (How can we make this better and use it more effectively?)
Embracing technology to improve your practice will lead to better results for your patients and will help build and sustain your practice. A bit of planning and anticipation of emotional reactions from the people impacted will ensure your transition goes smoothly.
Plan your technology and the systems needed to make it work. Then, passionately and with great care for your team, discuss your belief that the technology will help the practice and explain how the systems will change. With your leadership and a clarity for what comes next, you can keep an open door for communication along the way. Team members can raise questions, bring up ideas, and continue to mold the systems until your technology is fully implemented for the good of all. To embrace change — much less thrive in the change that comes about when implementing new technology — you must prioritize the power of people. Never forget the power of a motivated team, but rather, spend energy and time charging them up for the vision of what your practicing lives could become!
Cathy Jameson and Laing Rikkers teamed up to bring you this article after discussing the wonderful movements of technology but the consistent struggles they hear in practices throughout the world. Jameson is founder and CEO of Jameson Management, an international dental management firm offering in-office coaching as well as products and CE events. Read more at www.JamesonManagement.com or call (877) 369.5558. Rikkers is a director of Dental Technologies, Inc., a leading full-service dental laboratory network. She is also a managing director of HealthpointCapital, a values-driven, research-based, private equity firm exclusively focused on the orthopedics and dental industries. Read more at www.dtidental.com and www.HealthpointCapital.com.
By Laing Rikkers and Cathy Jameson