Who’s bringing the bagels tomorrow? In the vast majority of practices we observe, this is one of the few questions even remotely connected with staff accountability. If accountability and performance are an issue in your practice, you’ve got to recognize that—like a toothache—this is one problem that’s not going to fade away with a tincture of time and thoughtful neglect. Believe me, the longer the accountability/performance issue goes unchallenged, the more difficult the fix. So do yourself a favor. Dig your heels in, read what follows—which, in essence, is the start of a bold strategic plan—and give yourself the optimum shot at reaching your own vision of success. For the most trouble-free transition, step one is relatively easy to implement, as you’ll see in a moment.
START BY DITCHING THE GO-NOWHERE STAFF MEETING
Granted, there’s much to be said for team members getting together and affably chatting through their morning coffee and goodies. But the shameless truth is that weekly breakfast-club staff meetings, more often than not, turn into either fun-for-all schmoozing sessions or free-for-all-attack-and-destroy missions, both of which rob precious time from the priorities of the practice. There’s a business to be run, and it simply can’t subsist on coffee and conversation alone.
CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT IN ACTION
Besides the quick meetings just described, you’d do well to initiate what I refer to as a “continuous improvement plan” for your practice, with planning meetings to be conducted once each month. But as important as the meeting, the agenda for that meeting will become a ready-reference framework for performance standards by which a practice should operate. (For a free copy of a sample agenda, call McKenzie Management, (877) 777-6151.)
- establishing specific numbers and indices as practice objectives
- discussing the strategies behind those objectives
- determining who will be accountable for each
- structuring a time frame in which each objective must be met.
In this way, every single member of the team not only gets to know the score, but how his/her performance affects the entire team and its goals. When using this planning agenda as recommended, each meeting becomes a highly effective conduit to continuous improvement and exceptional performance. That’s a win-win for your team members and your practice. It doesn’t get much better than that.
BEFORE ANY GOALS ARE SET
Your starting point must be factored into any short-term goals you’re about to set for your practice. For example, let’s say your patient retention is now at 57%. It’s clear that you can’t just blindly raise the bar to 90% or 95%, for that would be a prescription for failure. Instead, interim goals will need to be set, after it’s been determined why retention has been so low. System failure is the most common culprit, with patients falling through the cracks because there’s no one accountable for recall, or whoever is responsible doesn’t have the time or training to do it justice.
PUTTING EVERYONE TO THE TEST
In far too many instances, while dentists hold themselves to the highest professional standard, they establish no standard or specified expectations for their staff. It’s like jump ball every day for the staff and for you. Sorry, but that’s no way to run a business, and yes, your practice is a business. You might be recognized as the most highly skilled and compassionate dentist ever to treat the patients in your community. However, if your practice is not managed like the business it is, realization of your profitability potential will be severely limited. What a waste!
Make no mistake. By demanding that your staff members stand and deliver—accountability and performance—you’re giving them the gift of success in their jobs, which ultimately will translate to success of the practice. There can be no better employee benefit.
Ms. McKenzie is a nationally known lecturer, author, and consultant to the Council on Dental Practice of the ADA. She is President of McKenzie Management and Associates Inc, which provides in-office analysis of the business, clinical, and hygiene departments; conducts on-site staff training; and offers a full line of educational management books, audiotapes, and videos. McKenzie Management’s online practice management is a highly innovative approach, through which practicemanagement-online.com actually monitors practice numbers and provides support for staff. Additionally, Ms. McKenzie’s 34 years of experience and expertise are now available as on-tap resources for the dental profession at The Center for Dental Career Development, which provides advanced business education to the dental profession as well as team-building retreats in La Jolla, Calif. For information on what any of these companies can do for your practice, call Sally toll-free at (877) 777-6151, and visit her web sites at: mckenziemgmt.com; practicemanagement-online.com; or dentalcareerdevelop.com.