Midwinter meetings

I did something pretty silly today. I went to a sporting goods store which was going out of business and bought a new set of golf clubs.

Michael Gradeless, DDS

I did something pretty silly today. I went to a sporting goods store which was going out of business and bought a new set of golf clubs. Buying golf clubs in the winter is bad enough, but when you consider that in the last four years, I have played a total of nine holes of golf, the purchase becomes even more suspect. Of course, I intend to play more golf next spring, but what will it take to turn this intention into action?

While midwinter may not be the best time to buy golf clubs, this is the time when many dentists purchase new equipment and decide to adopt the new techniques they have learned at continuing-education courses. The Yankee Dental Congress is in Boston in January, and the Chicago Minwinter Meeting is in February. Many dentists take advantage of the special prices at these meetings to stock up on new equipment and supplies. Sometimes, they are great bargains ... and sometimes the money is wasted if the changes are never fully implemented into the practice. Five easy steps will allow you to implement any change into your practice.

Step No. 1: Strategic planning

The first step is strategic planning. This is a budgeting process of all your resources, time, energy, and money. If there are multiple changes you want to make in your practice, you should prioritize them. Always work on the most important changes first, even if other things look like more fun. Strategic planning really means that, when you go to the show, you will shop from a list, rather than buy on impulse.

Step No. 2: Examine your vision

The second step is to examine your vision and evaluate how the changes you want to make will support the achievement of your vision. Always perform an evaluation of this sort before you spend your money. There are times you will save some time and money by recognizing that, as exciting as a new product may be, it doesn't fit with your practice. Alternatively, when you find a new process or piece of equipment which does support your vision, you can go for it with confidence. These first two steps should happen before you invest your time and money. They are decisions you, as the leader, are expected to make according to what is best for your patients, your employees, and finally for your benefit.

Step No. 3: Assemble tools

The third step is to assemble the tools you need. Tools include verbal skills and training, as well as equipment and supplies. This is the time to work with your staff. I can guarantee your staff will field nine out of 10 questions patients have. It is an act of leadership to make certain your staff members have all the tools they need to be successful. This may take several staff meetings to role-play verbal skills and complete training before you go live with any new procedures or equipment.

Step No. 4: Plan who will make changes and how

The fourth step is to plan who will make the changes happen and how it will be done. Take the time to work with your staff to determine who will be responsible for each step of implementation. The eternal buzzword is "teamwork," and this is the time to divide and conquer. A core group within your staff is "change ready" and that group also understands and believes in your vision. You should enlist this group to help present and lead the changes to motivate the rest of your staff. Teamwork means everybody does something, and it is OK to rely more heavily on a few of your staff members.

Step No. 5: Implement accountability

The last and most important step is to implement accountability. Ongoing accountability is one of the major purposes of your staff meetings. At each staff meeting, there should be reports by various people about the progress you are making in implementing changes. To report progress, you must devise goals and methods of objectively measuring the impact new equipment and procedures have on your practice.

Many doctors purchase new equipment or return from seminars with intentions to change their practice, and then find that things gradually slip back to the old status quo. These five basic leadership steps can be applied to every change you wish to make in your practice. Now, if I can just figure out how this will convince my wife that I should play more golf this spring!

Dr. Michael Gradeless, a 1980 graduate of Indiana University, practices preventive dentistry in Indianapolis with an emphasis on cosmetics and implants. He is an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University, where he teaches the Pride Institute university curriculum of dental management. He also is the editor for the Indiana Dental Association. Contact him at (317) 841-3130 or email to drmike44@aol.com.

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