By: Trude Henderson
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 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, there are vast differences between a dental practice and the cockpit of an airplane, where high reliability behaviors were first studied in the early 1980’s, these high-performing organizations offer a plethora of valuable insights to any dental organization wishing to consistently maintain its effectiveness and accomplish its goals (especially, of course, the one of inspiring patient loyalty).
Below are some basic High Reliability Organization (HRO) principles and behaviors that you should keep in mind if you wish to help your dental practice become more reliable.
- Encourage transparency. People who are open and honest generally inspire greater esteem and confidence than others. This applies to dental leaders, organizations and customers, alike. Be sure to reward people who model these behaviors.
- Get continuous feedback. This can result in better decision-making because it helps organizations learn more, improve their processes in real-time and reduce the number of inconsistencies. Inconsistencies plus a lack of swift issue resolution can lead patients, (especially millennial patients!) to change providers in a heartbeat.
- Maintain a keen awareness of operations and systems. Pay close attention to what is and what is not working, and share your findings through visual aids, customer survey feedback and metrics. Be deeply concerned about complacency, routine and a lack of engagement. In short, be aware that “when you lose focus, you lose value.”
- Ask “Why?” as many times as necessary to get to the bottom of any issue. Dental practices are very busy, oftentimes resulting in a cursory problem-solving process. This in-turn can lead to the gratuitous repetition of unwanted incidents and mistakes.
- 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!
- Provide frequent opportunities for meaningful conversations and collaboration. Sharing ideas gives your employees a sense of purpose, beneficial alike to the individual, the team and the organization. For the hectic dental office, this could mean moving conversations and collaborating efforts to another setting.
- Try to discuss and resolve issues on-the-spot, rather than waiting for the occasional conference room meeting, but make sure that all conversations regarding these matters are out of earshot of your patients. A daily huddle, if executed properly, can be one of the most effective leadership tools at your disposal. A well-executed huddle of five minutes can be more effective than a twenty-minute, poorly-executed one.
- Draw on experts and/or on simply knowledgeable people to solve problems. Research indicates that such individuals can best identify trends and meaningful patterns.
- When hiring and promoting employees, look for people who appear resilient in confronting obstacles. They can be your best cheerleaders!
- 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 and continue moving forward, directly impacting the patients in your practice.
Always being mindful of where you are now and where you hope to be helps you fill in the gaps, increasing the likelihood that you will achieve the goals you set for your dental practice.
Trude Henderson, co-founder of iDENTIfy, Inc. a startup elective dental and medical practice improvement software company, first introduced High Reliability Organizational concepts to the dental industry in November of 2016. For more information about the concepts, refer to the HRO article dated, May 18, 2017, http://getidentify.com/high-reliability-concepts-insights-of-value-to-any-organization/ or contact her directly at Trude@GetIdentify.com. Follow Trude on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/trudehenderson/