Oral Health Group

Part 1 — Change Is Inevitable Except From A Vending Machine

June 1, 2010
by Lisa Philp, RDH

Change is everywhere, the economy, demographics, technology, procedures, products, patient service demands, management philosophies are just a few of the changes we are seeing everyday within the dental industry.

Dentistry is not the only profession seeing huge paradigm shifts and being challenged to change. Never before have more large and small businesses seen changes in every aspect of what they do and how they do it. These changes are going to require solid assessments, planning and implementation involving serious behavioral modifications.


Many dental practices are seeing a significant impact to their revenue and case acceptance. They can no longer be “stuck” doing things the old way, because it is comfortable. According to a recent CRA report, ninety-one percent of dentists are feeling impacted by the economy. Out of those, only fifty percent are doing anything to change to meet the demands.

As a professional change agent and coach, change is simple to define as a process of transition from one place to another. For change or transition to occur, the dental practice must have a synergistic team and solid leadership. Most people see leadership as the art of leading someone else. True leadership begins first by understanding ourselves, and then by a desire to help and encourage others to grow, be open to new ideas and realize a shared vision.

Ever wonder what it takes to make it to the top in dentistry? To be one of those dentists who has it all – financial freedom, great relationships, an exciting career and boundless enthusiasm? Let’s look at some of the strategies we’ve found that can make this happen. Success is no fluke. It’s a combination of the right moves, the right training, the right timing, and most important the right attitude.

I have identified five specific conditions that must be created in order for successful and energizing change or transition to take place.

A sense of urgent need and a plan of action that is clear and palpable to everyone on the team.

A sense of urgency with an action plan is the first step. Is the practice growing in all areas? Is stress under control, are you and your team enjoying what you are doing every day in the practice? Are patients accepting treatment that they want, are they motivated to perceive the value of the dentistry you have to offer? As dental insurance continues to change and as our patient’s coverage shrinks will we continue to do well? How would you rate your periodontal program? If you are not confident that your practice is functioning at the highest level possible you need to do exactly what you encourage your patients to do. Get a check-up.

You can hire a resource from outside the practice to audit all systems in the practice and give you a report with suggested recommendations or you can take all the practice systems and divide them between everyone in the office.

To do this it will be important to write out questions that you need answers for in each area to audit all systems. Give the questionnaire to the appropriate team member and have them research the answers and fill out the questionnaire. Each team member should investigate and answer the questions from an area they would normally not work. This will provide you with a more objective approach.

Once the questionnaires have been completed they should be handed into you so that you can analyze the results. Make a list of areas of weakness. Bring the list to the team and have a brainstorming session to develop solutions and an action plan.

If the team is involved in assessing the problems, and developing a list of solutions it is easier to get them to commit to an action plan that will turn areas of weakness in the practice to areas of strength and opportunity.

Once the action plan is written, delegate each item to a team member and ask them to come up with a strategy to accomplish each task and a suggested timetable that can be agreed upon.

An Inspiring Mission and Vision

The second element that is essential to getting people to change is to offer them an attractive goal or mission. Think of a vision statement as the container into which you “pour” your practice. Work through these six steps.

Envision the vision: Ask the team and yourself, “What are people saying about us? What are our clients telling neighbors? What are other dental offices saying? What are we saying? What are we providing for our patients?”

Outline all possibilities via brainstorming: Brainstorm for words and phrases that capture the group’s foresight. During brainstorming, everything is acceptable. Brainstorming provides raw material to shape your visions.

Organize and categorize separate ideas into columns containing similar words or phrases: For example list leadership and dental leader in the same group. If an idea doesn’t fit a category, list miscellaneous concepts in a separate column. Then encourage creative alignment. While aligning opinions, you’ll also have a powerful team-building experience.

Sharpen your focus: After organizing ideas, you’ll probably have four to eight columns of similar words and phrases. Now hone your vision to essential words. Creative alignment and leadership are important as you remove redundancies. If two ideas say the same thing, take a vote.

Draft a rough vision statement: Before you begin this step, take a short break. Then give the team 10 minutes to write a statement with the phrases already generated. Use as much material as possible, but it’s not necessary to include every word or phrase.

Capture the Vision: Listen for things that excite the team. Write each vision statement on a flip chart. One vision statement may stand out. More likely the final version will come from a combination of two or more. Let the team nominate the statement that most accurately reflects the values of the practice. By the end of this process you will have created an amazing mission statement for the practice, and everyone helped create the concept.

When your vision guides daily decisions, you’ll take control of your practice. Remember that a ship with sails filled with wind and its rudder in the water is still out of control unless the captain directs it with the rudder – your vision statement. DPM

Lisa Philp is President of Transitions Group North America, a full service coaching company for dentistry. She graduated from East Tennessee State University as a Registered Dental Hygienist in 1987. Her career began with clinical hygiene in United States and Canada to the creation of a periodontal disease management program in which she coached thousands of dental professionals. Her mission is to make dentistry simple and fun allowing dental professionals to achieve personal and professional fulfillment in the workplace.

Note* Part II of Change is Inevitable will appear in the Fall 2010 issue of DPM.