Analyzing your systems

April 1, 2002
If you already have a good practice, going to the next level is challenging.

By Cathy Jameson, PhD

If you already have a good practice, going to the next level is challenging. Delightful, but challenging. Why? Because you wouldn't have a good practice if you weren't doing a lot of things right. So first, pat yourself on the back for work well done. "That which is rewarded is repeated," according to Dr. Michael LeBoeuf.

And then, take a hard look at what you can do better. Evaluate each of your systems and ask, "What are we doing well?" Whatever it is you're doing, keep doing it! Then, ask yourself the really difficult question: "How can we do this better?" That's the most important question for dental practices today – and the reason for this column: to help dentists take good practices and make them great!

One of the most dangerous things a dentist can do is be complacent. Over the last decade, the entire country – and certainly the dental profession – has seen a great economic upswing. However, things are changing, due to recession, September 11, and war.

The dynamics of the dental industry, however, are favorable for the practicing dentist. More doctors are retiring than are graduating, patient numbers have increased, and the treatment mix is increasing (for example, cosmetic dentistry and implants).

However, dentists must consider both the pros and the cons that impact the industry today. Take a good, hard look at your practice and make a supreme effort to go back to the basics – the things that put you where you are now – and be diligent about making each aspect of your practice even better.

For example, no matter how good you think customer service is in your practice, it could be even better. As a team, review the internal protocols that enhance your patient's experience with you. Then, together, decide on three new things you can add to your customer service protocols. Using the five-step process of goal accomplishment that I discussed in my March column, design a plan of action for each of the three new protocols. Then, put them into action. Continually review the results to assure their effectiveness. Then, add to the services on a regular basis. Do this with each of your systems.

Most practices have around 25 management systems. We have never been in a practice where these systems are as good as they can be! Yet, improving each of the 25 systems by 1 percent can make a 25 percent difference for you – a positive difference. Taking a highly productive practice and making a positive 25 percent difference is very significant!

On the other hand, if you feel that any of your systems aren't as smooth-flowing as they should be, then you have a lot of work to do, but you also have a tremendous opportunity. Growth for you will be boundless!

Step back. Humble yourself. Look at your practice with wide-open eyes. Commit to making every aspect of it better. Not only will you be more productive, but you will also be more profitable, and you will obtain control over the stress caused by systems that are not working efficiently.

Exercise

Refine each of your management systems. Find ways to make each system a bit better. This may be a good time to have your practice evaluated by a management professional. A third-party set of eyes is effective when determining where your practice can be improved. Coaches are appropriate for everyone who is interested in continuous improvement.

Cathy Jameson, PhD, is president of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental lecture and consulting firm. She has been a featured speaker for the major dental meetings throughout the world and is an adjunct faculty member of the Oklahoma University School of Dentistry and as associate professor at the NYU College of Dentistry. Her books, Great Communication = Great Production and Collect What You Produce are top sellers for PennWell Books. Contact Dr. Jameson at (580) 369-5555, or email cathy@jameosnmanage ment.com

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