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10.28.05 Issue #190  
Performance Measurements: Your Practice Compass

Sally McKenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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What are your responsibilities? What are you trying to accomplish? What is expected of you? What are the goals of the practice and where do you fit in?

If you’re the doctor, you just might know the answers to those questions, and you may feel you are headed in precisely the right direction. However, if you are a member of the staff, you may very well be shaking your head, shrugging your shoulders and thinking, “I couldn’t answer any of them. I just come here and do what I think the person before me did and try not to mess anything up.”

Between the busyness of the dental business these days and the chronic employee turnover experienced by many offices, ensuring that everyone is headed in the same direction is no simple challenge. Too often dental practices are staffed by employees who want a career but are locked into just a job. Everyone is doing their own thing - the same thing day-in and day-out - without a lot of thought for what course they are on. They just drift along seriously in need of a compass.

The compass I’m referring to doesn’t point North, South, East or West. Rather it guides everyone on the team in the same direction, and it comes in the form of a performance measurement program. While there are a number of models out there, systems that are based on individual jobs and focus on specific job-related goals and how those relate to improving the total practice are the most effective. In implementing a performance measurement system, you’ll want to take a few steps to establish a strong foundation:

Step #1 -Create specific job descriptions for each employee. It’s time to spell out what each member on your team is responsible for, and resist the temptation to overlap job duties. But Sally if I don’t overlap duties what happens when Jill is out? You cross-train, so that each area has coverage when the point person is out ill or is unavailable. If you overlap duties, employees are given tasks but not responsibility.

What’s more, the team member trying to fulfill her/his job duties effectively quickly becomes frustrated. She/he wants to take ownership for a particular system, but can’t because it’s not “her/his system” to oversee. It’s simply not in the practice’s best interest to have multiple people responsible for areas such as collections or scheduling.

Step #2 – Lay the groundwork for success:
Provide the necessary equipment and tools to perform the job.
Provide training to help team members carry out the job duties most effectively.
Explain what is expected of the employee and how their performance will be measured. Evaluate the number of staff and if that number is adequate.

Step #3 – What gets measured gets done. Appraise employee performance using an effective performance appraisal instrument that evaluates key areas such as:

  • The employee’s ability to follow instructions
  • Their willingness to help others and cooperate with others
  • The incidents of errors in their work
  • Their initiative, commitment, and innovation in carrying out their responsibilities and improving work flow
  • Their work ethics, their attitude, and their individual productivity

The vast majority of employees want to deliver a quality work product. They want to feel they are part of a harmonious team that not only enjoys working together but also is committed to succeeding together. And they want to feel that they are rewarded based on their individual ability to achieve what is expected of them. In fact, a McKenzie Management study based on hundreds of personal interviews and auxiliary personnel surveys revealed that dental employees want the opportunity to take ownership of their responsibilities. They want to be able to maximize their intelligence and their abilities. They seek to be challenged, to be given the opportunity to pursue innovative approaches in their work, and to be held accountable and appropriately rewarded for results. All are characteristics of both a thriving team and a solid performance measurement program. 

Maybe it’s time you checked your compass and made sure you are heading in the right direction.

If you have any question or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at

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