5 Points of Follow Through

Janice Hurley - Dentistry's Image Expert

Without a doubt, the most common complaint I hear from doctors these days is a lack of “follow through” by team members. Today’s dental practices are highly dependent on the skills of the team and the orchestration of standard operating procedures. Everyone should be clear as to what must be done, and when it should be done. Whether it’s introducing “six pics” for faithful hygiene patients, or giving a new patient tour, there has to be consistent follow through.

As a dental consultant for more than 33 years, I have learned to expect the frustration that doctors so often experience when systems are supposedly agreed upon but are rarely followed. Employee operations manuals are well intended, but without accountability and follow through from the doctor, they will never support the practice’s growth.

Here are my 5 points to consistent follow through:

  • Start with One – Choose one system at a time to develop, test and refine. For example, if your intention is to maximize schedule productivity, you’ll want to address that one system. Allow a minimum of one hour of your time to address the system with your team.
  • Break it Down – Systems work best when broken into digestible bites and steps that everyone on the team must know. Find the description on effective scheduling in your operating manual and print out a copy for everyone involved. Review the system beforehand to confirm it addresses your goals for improvement, and that the instructions are very specific. No one follows through on gross generalities.
  • Dedicate Time – Hold your training time in the office location where the system will be implemented. Start by comparing the standard operating procedure to the schedule in front of you. Ask the team members to personally identify what has been scheduled correctly and what has not. There should be no judgment or backlash for those who have not followed the proper procedure – only a conversation about what should be taking place from now on.
  • Identify Gaps – Ask the team members one by one to identify what keeps them from scheduling as planned. Let them talk freely about their hurdles, whether it’s pushy patients, or friends of the doctor, or even the preferences of the associate. Let the team express their point of view and then ask them to identify which steps they now feel confident with, and which steps need more practice. Use the current schedule to let each person on the team demonstrate what they would do differently that gets them closest to meeting the agreed upon system.
  • Follow Up – This is the most common element missing from our dental practices. To reinforce correct procedure, check in with your team several times in the next 24 hours and “catch them doing something right.” We all respond well to positive feedback and immediately become defensive to criticism, so it is vital to enthusiastically reinforce what has gone well, and redirect what missed the mark. Open up a dialogue by asking: “So, what’s working for you??

It’s very easy for a doctor or office manager to feel they don’t have enough time to train the team properly. Instead, think about, and even quantify the cost to the practice if your team is not well trained. You literally can’t afford to skip systems training.

Your team is your most valuable asset, and at their core, everyone wants to do a good job. The number one reason teams are not consistent with systems is a lack of training by all involved.

I want to challenge you to choose one system that must be followed consistently. Set aside time to execute the five steps before the end of the month, and evaluate the difference in your results. I guarantee you and your team will feel a significant amount of personal pride by committing to systems improvement. You’ve got this!