The Paradox of Performance
It’s an interesting irony; the success of virtually every dental practice is wholly and completely dependent on the effectiveness of both the doctor and the team. Yet when it comes to establishing systems to measure that effectiveness, many are reluctant to do so. Dentists will say things like, “I’m sure Mary is doing the best she can.” But you don’t really know. Or, “If there were a serious problem I would see it.” Yes, and believe me, it’s about to hit you right between the eyes and square in the bank account. “Everyone knows they are expected to do a good job.” And what exactly do the words “good job” mean, doctor?
Details slip through the cracks, and when questioned about specific responsibilities, staff members commonly respond with comments such as, “Is that my job? I thought it was hers.” “When was I supposed to have time to take care of that?” “Oh, is that important?” Without clearly defined job responsibilities and performance measurements, dental teams experience far more conflict, staff turnover, patient attrition, and lost profits.
Performance measurement begins with performance management. If you’ve ever had an interest in improving patient retention, scheduling, treatment, financing, collections, etc. then you’ve touched on performance management. These are all systems in your practice, and properly managing the performance of each system means appropriately measuring the performance of each person who affects those systems.
Too often, however, there is a disconnect between the performance/results that the doctor desires and the performance/results the employees deliver. Dentists know what they want, but they don’t know how to guide employees down the path to achieve it. Consequently, both become frustrated and discontented with the other. The doctor sees a team of non-performers who “can’t do their jobs.” The team sees a doctor who “can’t lead and doesn’t know how to communicate what s/he wants.” Both are wrong. But both are lacking the fundamental ingredient necessary for success: clearly established performance measurements.
In working with thousands of practices over the years, we find that most employees - at least the ones you want on your team - sincerely want to perform well. They want to be challenged, and they need direction, guidance, and regular feedback.
But where do you begin? Certainly, many dedicated practitioners have given up in frustration when trying to implement performance measurement systems. They neither knew where or how to execute such a program. This isn’t the type of change that can be implemented overnight. Give yourself time, a period of months, to implement a working performance measurement system.
Choose a model that encourages, not discourages, excellence. Some well-intentioned systems are poorly designed and actually discourage outstanding performance. For example, some practices will mistakenly base the measurements solely on areas that are clearly and easily quantifiable, such as collections ratio, accounts receivables, production, number of new patients, etc. They also are inclined to establish group bonus plans based on the combined efforts of staff to reach specific production, collection, and overhead figures. Group participation implies equal contribution toward group objectives. Yet in reality, the business coordinator schedules production, the clinical assistant aids in production, the dentist and hygienist produce. These are not equal functions.
The most successful performance measurements are based on individual jobs. They focus on specific job-related goals and how those relate to improving the total practice. Used effectively, employee performance measurements and reviews provide dental teams and individuals with critical information and direction that is essential in making major decisions regarding patients, financial concerns, management systems, productivity, and staff.
Ultimately, it comes down to making a choice. If you want to maintain the status quo, continue to tell yourself that your practice really doesn’t need performance measurements. But if you want to feel good about coming to work every day and enjoy the quality of life and financial benefits of a highly functioning team, invest some time and resources in constructively directing them. You’ll be the first to enjoy the pay-off of better performance and higher productivity. I guarantee it. What’s more, you will learn very quickly if the employee(s) you perceive to be weak performers truly are lacking in competence, or merely need clear direction and guidance from you.
Next week, implement performance measurements step-by-step.
Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.
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