In his article, “Reliable Organizations: Present Research and Future Directions” (Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 55), Gene Rochlin defines a High-Reliability Organization (HRO) as an organization one that “conducts relatively error-free operations over a long period of time, making consistently good decisions that result in high quality and reliable operations.” The industries that initiated the use of HRO concepts included aviation, nuclear power, manufacturing and the military. Although vastly different in their very nature from dental practices, the high-performing organizations in these sectors offer a plethora of valuable insights to any dental practice wishing to consistently accomplish its practice improvement goals.
Below are some basic High-Reliability Organization (HRO) principles and behaviors that you, the dental practice leader, should keep in mind if you want to make your practice more reliable and get closer to achieving your goals.
1) Encourage transparency. People who are open and honest generally inspire greater esteem and confidence than others. This applies to dental practice leaders and employees alike. Be sure to reward employees who model these behaviors.
2) Get continuous feedback and listen carefully. This can result in better decision-making, because it will help team members learn more, improve their processes in real-time and reduce the number of inconsistencies. The latter, plus a lack of swift issue resolution, can lead dental patients, (especially millennial ones!) to change providers in a heartbeat. Be sure to listen carefully during the feedback process. When employees feel that they are ignored, they may become disengaged.
3) Maintain a keen awareness of operations and systems. Pay close attention to what is and what is not working. Be deeply concerned about complacency, routine and a lack of employee engagement. In short, be aware that “when you lose focus, you lose value.”
4) Ask “Why?” as many times as necessary to get to the bottom of any issue. Dental practices are very busy, oftentimes resulting in a casual approach to problem-solving. This, in turn, can lead to the gratuitous repetition of unwanted incidents and mistakes that can be detrimental to your practice improvement strategy and a blatant waste of organizational resources.
5) Strive to de-stigmatize failure by communicating the importance of viewing challenges and negative feedback as opportunities for improvement. And remember to reward this behavior!
6) Provide frequent opportunities for meaningful conversations and collaboration. Connecting with employees is more valuable than most dental practice managers realize. Sharing ideas gives your employees a sense of purpose, beneficial alike to the individual, the team and the practice as a whole. James Kouzes, co-author of The Leadership Challenge said it best: “The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present.”
7) Try to discuss and resolve issues on-the-spot, rather waiting for the occasional conference room meeting, but make sure that such exchanges are out of earshot of your patients. A daily huddle, if well-executed, can be one of the most effective leadership tools and have a tremendous impact on your customer experience as well as your dental practice production. A good, five-minute huddle can be more effective than a twenty-minute, poorly executed one.
8) Draw on experts, and/or on simply knowledgeable people, to help you solve problems. Research indicates that such individuals can best identify trends and meaningful patterns in the course of your dental practice improvement journey.
9) When hiring and promoting employees, keep an eye open for people who appear resilient in confronting obstacles. They can be your best cheerleaders, as well as thinking up new ideas that can lead to improvement in dental practice production!
10) Say ‘Thank you!’ often, as it can help foster resilience. Employees who feel appreciated are more likely to endure the inevitable bumps in the road while continuing to move forward, directly impacting your patients. Dental practice management is challenging, but by cultivating an ‘attitude of gratitude’ you increase the increase the likelihood of team success!
To conclude: always being mindful of where you are now, and where you hope to be, helps you fill in the gaps and hopefully, achieve the practice improvement goals you set for your dental practice.
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Trude Henderson is the founder of iDENTIfy, Inc., a startup elective dental and medical practice improvement software company. In 2016, she was the first to introduce High-Reliability Organizational Concepts to the dental industry. For questions, contact her directly at Trude@GetIdentify.com. Follow Trude on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/trudehenderson/ (no email required)
Go to iDENTIfy’s website: www.getidentify.com practice improvement software