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Dr. John Flucke is in private practice in Lee’s Summit, Mo. He also serves as technology editor for Dental Products Report magazine and keeps an active blog filled with thoughts and tidbits on the world of technology at blog.denticle.com.
Exploring how to make changes in the new year and be successful at it.
Welcome to 2019!
The thing that always pumps me up about January is the beginning of a new year and all the possibilities that entails. As the “Technology Evangelist,” this time of year is even more important to me for the simple fact that lots of people equate this time of year as the ideal time to make changes. Since change is the energy that drives me and my practice, I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to make the changes necessary to succeed in your practice and your life.
However, change just for the sake of change is wasted energy. Change needs to be driven by something - a reason. There has to be something you really want to change. That’s why people make resolutions.
Let’s take a look at how to change and be successful at it.
Identify the problem
This is usually easy in your personal life. Put on a few pounds? Exercise more to take them off. However, in the dental practice, this may be more difficult.
I recommend involving staff in the list making. Ask each staff member to come up with three areas in the office that need improvement. Then take their lists and narrow them down to the most important ones. Work on those really important ones and refer to the list down the road when you’ll likely want to make even more improvements.
Make staff buy-in
If you want to make a personal change, then you’ve got to really want to change. Otherwise you’re just paying lip service to the concept. In the office, you’ve got to make sure your staff is on board with you. If they aren’t “all in,” then the changes will be slow - if they happen at all.
When people are in agreement, things happen. By getting everyone in the office pointed in the same direction and excited about where the practice is headed, success awaits!
Like getting on a scale, we’ve got to figure out if we’re making progress when it comes to change. Often it’s a very measurable entity such as an increase in production or savings on supplies. The thing to remember is that a goal without accountability is called “hope.” Sometimes in the office this can mean holding someone’s feet to the fire, but if you’ve gotten staff buy-in, then they’ve already agreed to the change. That makes accountability easier.
Everyone likes to see progress, which is why timelines are critical. I’d much rather increase production by $5,000 per month in January than reach December and realize I wanted to increase production by $60,000 per year ($5,000 times 12, get it?). Life is like orthodontics. Gradual, low-pressure change is much easier on a system than rapid, high-pressure change. Make your goals attainable, and then frequently analyze them to see how things are going.
Expect the unexpected
One of my favorite quotes is from the military. It states, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” When you’re making changes, you’ve got to be fluid enough to roll with the changes they create or the changes that life throws at you that make your goals harder to attain. Expect that things may not go exactly as planned and devise ways to stay on course despite the obstacles thrown in your path.
This may even call for changing and rearranging the plan. However, know that every goal is attainable - it just may take a little hard work to get there.
Set realistic goals and stick to them
If January is your first month in private practice and you have zero patients of record, then a production goal of $3 million might be a bit optimistic. However, it IS possible to get there in time by setting more reasonable goals for the short term. Setting goals that are currently out of reach and then becoming disappointed and angry with yourself or your staff members when they aren’t met won’t do a bit of good in helping to attain them. Instead, remember that “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”
Also remember that human beings love to default to the status quo. Often a goal is lost because we lose focus on that goal. Think of the gym on Jan. 1, and then think of that gym again on Feb. 1. The first month of change is critical. It takes human beings about 30 days to really settle into a change, making it part of their normal routine. Before that crucial 30 days, it’s much easier to just slide back to the old way. I tell my patients, “If I can get you to floss for one month, you’ll be a flosser for life!” And when I say that, I mean it.
The road to mediocrity is paved with good intentions, but mediocrity means you’re just like anyone else. This year set some attainable goals and turn yourself and your staff loose on them. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can accomplish.