While you may not suffer from metathesiophobia, the persistent and unwarranted fear of change, you might still get palpitations when leaving your “comfort zone.” Change can sometimes create feelings of anxiety and insecurity in even the most seasoned dentists and harmonious practice teams. In the evolving dental marketplace, change is inevitable, and having the ability to adapt to that change means your practice also has the ability to compete. Because your team probably gravitates toward its comfort zones too, changes large and small require a strategic approach.
So how do you meet objectives and mitigate tension while navigating change? See how proven change management principles can be applied within a dental practice.
State your business case.
As a leader, you aren’t seeking change for change’s sake. Whether the change is in dress code, dental supplies, patient protocol or scheduling, take time to state your business case to your staff. Are you seeking to enhance the practice’s presence, focus on patients, increase flexibility, embrace innovation or ensure sustainability? Consider how you would communicate a change in dental supply vendors. If the change is intended to decrease supply costs, convey that the savings will allow the practice to stay competitive or invest in other improvements. If the change is intended to streamline ordering, share how you anticipate easier processes and time savings.
Anticipate and reduce friction.
When you involve your team in the change, you reduce anxiety about the unknown. And while you can’t control your team’s feelings, you can make change easier for them. Reduce friction when rolling out a new change. For example, if you change your practice dress code to improve infection control and the patient experience, don’t just document and communicate the policy. Make it easy for your staff to understand your expectations and to comply. Perhaps the practice could absorb the cost of long-sleeved tees to be worn under scrubs or order them for staff. In the case of a new dental supply vendor, there are several ways to set the team up for success. Ensure they have the login information to shop for supplies, as well as a contact for questions. In addition, establish practice guidelines for supply budgets, stock levels and preferred brands.
Set SMART goals.
You can also relieve stress by setting clear expectations about team members’ roles and responsibilities. Lead the practice through the change with goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, reasonable and time bound. For example, “Our dress code is important to our patients’ comfort. I expect our whole clinical team to comply by Monday. If you have concerns about this change, come talk to me today.” Or, “By the end of the month, we identify our most frequently ordered disposable products and set up recurring subscriptions.”
Take one day at a time, breaking the change into measurable achievements and remembering to celebrate successes. If ordering has become more efficient through saved shopping lists or subscriptions, be sure to thank team members for supporting the practice’s change in vendors and share the impact of their efforts. If the staff has embraced a new dress code, take a new team photo for the practice’s website. By expressing appreciation for how the team has supported the practice’s changes, you’re more likely to have their ongoing engagement and trust when faced with future change.
Being a practice leader doesn’t make you immune from fear of change. However, with confidence, communication and patience, you can better manage through the change. Your adaptability positions your practice to innovate and grow.
The Dentists Supply Company specializes in group purchasing solutions, helping dentists practice on their own terms through dental supply savings.
*Facts on this article were updated on 3.8.19