Consistency with your systems

Nov. 1, 2003
You have approximately 25 major management systems in your practice. It is the effectiveness of your systems that make it possible to provide dental care in the manner you choose.

Cathy Jameson, PhD

You have approximately 25 major management systems in your practice. It is the effectiveness of your systems that make it possible to provide dental care in the manner you choose. If your management systems are not carefully set up, administered excellently and consistently, and monitored to determine their effectiveness, your ability to provide care to your patients in a smooth, stress-controlled manner can be undermined.

Oftentimes, we see inconsistencies in our management systems. A practice may have a pretty good system in place, but if things get busy, someone is out, or if someone doesn't feel like completing a task, that system may receive an "Oh, it won't matter if I do that this time."

Your management systems are just like your clinical systems. There is a Step 1, a Step 2, a Step 3, and so on. You follow all these steps with consistency because you want a good result. For example, in a crown preparation, you follow a protocol the same way every time. You follow the steps of that system with consistency to avoid a crown that doesn't fit, a patient that is upset, a doctor who becomes irritated, or a costly error.

The same kind of commitment to consistency of protocol needs to be followed in your management systems: Scheduling, financial arrangements, accounts receivable control, hygiene retention — they all must be handled with consistency. If you leave out steps of any system, you are making a choice for things to not go well, for results to be compromised, or for potential problems to show up that need not occur.

What to do?

1) Set goals for each system. Go through all of your systems one at a time. Determine the end results you would like to achieve. Then, define the steps you will take to make that goal — the desired results — become a reality. Ask yourself the following questions:

• What are we going to do ... and how are we going to do it?
• Who is going to do what?
• What are the appropriate communication skills relative to that system? When are we going to carry out each of the steps?
• Do we have monitors in place to determine the success of that system? What if it isn't working?
• Are we evaluating on a regular basis?

2) Train. Develop the team. Make sure that you have provided the appropriate training and materials that a team member might need in order to be successful in managing a system. Do not assume that just because someone is in a position to administer a system that the individual has developed those skills to the "nth" degree. In fact, all systems can be improved and all people can improve their ability to administer systems. There is no such thing as perfection.

3) Monitor the health of each system. Establish monitors that let you know quickly if a system is healthy or not. Remember: "That which is not monitored cannot be measured."

4) Alter when necessary. When you determine — upon evaluation — that a system is not accessing the results that you desire, be willing to change the plan of action quickly. Not altering one system that isn't working well may have a negative effect on all other systems. Be cognizant of your reality. What is working? What isn't working? Be willing to change when it is advantageous to the practice. The worst thing you can do is continue doing something that isn't working.

5) Be willing to risk. No success is ever accomplished without some degree of risk. If mistakes are made, great! Learn from those mistakes and be stronger and better on the other side.

Good to Great

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins and his team studied companies that elevated themselves to a level of greatness and maintained that state. There were many "truths" that characterized these companies, but one of those related to "consistency." Mr. Collins says, "When I look over the good-to-great transformations of companies, the one word that keeps coming to mind is consistency."

You, too, can take your good practice and make it great. Consistency of systems is one of the foundational and essential elements of being "great."

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 an 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 [email protected].

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