To inspire your team to improve, you must first define realistic and concrete goals

BY John D. Marvin

Published in the July/August 2014 issue

We mean well; we really do. We want to improve our practices, but life — the whirl of daily activity and “stuff” — always gets in the way. I believe the following steps will help you create effective change in your practice. But note that important word: help. If you are to change things for the better, it will be because you consistently take action to create the change you seek. Let’s take a look at these eight fundamental steps:

1. Define the objective. What do you you want to change? A team needs to know what to focus on. You can lay out the basic goal — for example, keep the schedule on time — but it is important to let the team define and expand the goal and make it specific. It must be defined in terms of “how much” and “by when.” Don’t say you want to improve your daily schedule by staying on time. Say: “By Aug. 31, 2014, our patient appointments will last 60 minutes or less.”

2. Set a manageable number of things to change. Doctors often attend a conference where they learn ways to improve their practice. They return full of enthusiasm, motivation and determination to put in place a flurry of new ideas, programs and approaches. The staff knows this will only last a week or maybe two before things go back to normal. In the meantime, the office is stressed and in the end, the doctor is frustrated and disappointed. It is better to start with only one objective and succeed.

3. Don’t just solve the “what,” but also the “why.” Do this by asking, “What is the benefit of making this change?” Your team needs a clear understanding why the change is important — and how it will benefit both the practice and more important, the patients.

4. Define obstacles that will prevent the team from making the changes. Focus on internal obstacles; not on the external environment, such as competitors and laws. It’s too easy to say, “We can’t do anything about it.” Control what you can control.

5. Set the goal within reach. If patients currently average 120 minutes at your practice instead of 60, setting a deadline to change it by this Friday sets you up for failure. However, allowing 30 days to attain the change is realistic.

6. Have your team identify four or five concrete steps to take in achieving the change you want. Clearly define these steps, and write them down. Not “we’ll try” actions such as, “We’ll try to serve patients faster.” You want actions that can be tracked and monitored. These steps take aim at the obstacles defined in step 4. An example is “We will collect 80 percent of all needed patient information online before the patient arrives for their appointment.” Develop and achieve these action steps, and watch your group become a team.

7. Get commitment from individual team members to take action on specific tasks. Each team member takes ownership in achieving the overall change, but everyone should get specific steps for which they are responsible. Personal responsibility and accountability are critical.

8. Measure and share the results. Business leaders know that what is measured is improved, but too often this step is forgotten or inconsistently followed. Measure performance against a defined objective on a daily, weekly and/or monthly basis. Posting results will keep the team focused on improvement as they can see the changes being achieved and the accomplishments grow.

So give it a try. No, scratch that: Get it done. Put these eight steps into play, and you’ll finally be on your way to realizing your dream practice.

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