I have to admit that I really like the idea many dentists have of “cross-training.” Everyone on the team covers for everyone else. It’s a nice warm and friendly notion that team members just automatically step in and help whenever the need arises. But when I try to gather more details on how this works in their practices, what the protocols are, what training took place to prepare the staff to just “step in” when necessary, the answers are typically long on generalities and short on specifics. One of my favorites is, “Well they just do what needs to be done.” Oh, really? The fact is that when everyone has their hand in everything, no one is accountable for anything.
Instead of answers to problems, you hear the chorus of excuses. “I thought she was taking care of that. Oh, I didn’t realize that. When did we start doing this? Uh oh, how did that happen?” Not because your team is incompetent or unwilling, but because there are no real expectations, there is no delineation of duties, and there are no real measurements of performance. No one is taking responsibility or genuine pride in the outcomes of any one system because they are not allowed to do so.
You cannot ignore solid management practices or human nature for that matter. If staff are simply expected to “fill in” wherever they are needed, no one has the opportunity to take ownership, to shine because the focus is merely on getting the job done, not getting the job done well.