Everyone who walks through your door, from new hires to consultants to speakers at dental conferences, is brimming with suggestions for how your practice may run more efficiently and effectively. However, if you’ve been in the corporate world for some time, you might be feeling jaded and reluctant to make any major changes.
In light of this, I’ll be giving you some advice on how to:
Examine the areas of your office where you think a change or new system could be beneficial, and
Use your brain while implementing new changes so that they “stick” and you don’t end up in a scenario where you can’t “put the toothpaste back in the tube” if the change doesn’t work.
Thus, I think it is time to begin.
- Before making a change, write down all the factors involved.
Do not make any modifications to an area or procedure of your practice until you have thoroughly documented the current state of affairs, down to the smallest detail.
This is a crucial stage since it would be disastrous to alter a solution that was working.
In addition, as you record each step, you’ll discover any “cracks” in your workplace that have been generating issues.
This could look like this (we’ll use the act of hiring as an example):
Let’s say you’ve seen that your company has been doing a lot of interviews, but that few of the candidates it offers jobs to end up accepting the positions. You’re determined to find a solution, so you watch and record the procedure as it went:
Get job application from Indeed sent to our company’s primary email.
After three days, an email asking the candidate to set up an interview is sent.
After two days and four emails back and forth, an interview time has been set up with the applicant.
A review of the applicant’s application and résumé is conducted the morning of the interview.
The potential employee shows up, and the interviewer meets with them immediately.
After a 30-minute interview, the prospective employee is shown around the office.
The interviewer tells the candidate that a decision will be made within a few days.
The candidate was given an offer ten days after applying.
An applicant informs us that they’ve accepted a position with another company.
This is only an illustration; the point is to take notes on actual events as they occur. Repeatedly seeing a phenomenon of this kind will help you determine its regular behavior.
Here we can notice a few potential areas for improvement. For example, it took too long to receive a response to the original application and even longer to receive an offer. Those that are truly interested in obtaining work will jump at the chance to accept a position that is a good match.
Nonetheless, we’d have to record this procedure multiple times to determine whether or not this was an isolated incident or if it warrants modification.
Here’s what I recommend doing once you’ve watched and documented the process or area of your practice and determined that adjustments need to be made.
Continuing with the same example as before, let’s imagine it was discovered that the interviewer was routinely sending offers to applicants after 10 days, and that the majority of applicants were declining because they had already received a better offer elsewhere. This should be adjusted so that qualified candidates can be interviewed and the office’s time is not wasted.
You decide to draft a new policy that reads, in part, “Within 24 hours of determining that the applicant is a good fit and approved to be hired by XXX Dental, an offer should be issued through email and phone call.”
Finally, you’d inform the person who typically conducts the interview of your findings and the upcoming shift. Discuss the new procedure with them, and make sure everyone is on the same page about why this change is being implemented.
- Maintain a log of adjustments so you can determine the causes of problems.
I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has made a change without telling anyone else or perhaps even remembering it themselves later. And suddenly things start going awry without any apparent cause.
If, for instance, you notice an increase in cancellations and no-shows and are perplexed as to why, you can decide to implement cancellation fees as a means of discouraging future occurrences of the former. If you had been maintaining a “changes log,” however, you would have noticed that Mary had taken over confirmations from Suzy, who believed she could save time by sending emails rather than making phone calls. There was no need to implement a cancellation charge here; instead, you can just revert to the previous confirmation process and give Mary the appropriate training. (And naturally, this becomes a policy that goes in the job handbook, so that anyone doing the position in the future will be trained correctly.)
- If something isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.
A common situation is when a former Scheduling Coordinator leaves or is promoted within the company despite having done a great job of keeping the schedule running smoothly. The new hire has brought fresh perspective to the role and is eager to get to work implementing their plans.
These fresh thoughts are intriguing, but you shouldn’t change the recipe just yet.
Taking charge and wanting to make changes are admirable qualities, but not in the first week on the job. If things were operating smoothly on the schedule, the previous Scheduling Coordinator probably had a valid rationale for the way they did things.
The new hire should at least spend some time observing established procedures and customs before attempting to alter them.
As I said above, they should notify the Office Manager or Owner before making any modifications, and record the modifications they make in a “changes log.”