“Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!”
There’s a popular episode of the show Friends where Ross, Rachel, and Chandler attempt to haul Ross’s new couch up a flight of stairs to his apartment in order to avoid a delivery fee from the furniture store.
Here’s a clip:
While you may not have a big couch to move, dental practices can often benefit from a strategic "Pivot!".
If you’re unable to pivot and maneuver changing circumstances, it’s almost impossible to reach your goals. You’ll end up stuck. So, it’s crucial to evaluate your organizational structure, systems, and processes in a way that will give you clear indicators of when you need to pivot those elements to achieve your goals.
Over the past couple of years, there have been drastic changes to the world and in the dental profession that are out of our control and have forced us to make adjustments.
As these have been mostly external forces driving the change, dental practices have generally been reactionary in response. Even if it isn’t always possible, it’s important to try to be as proactive as you can in responding to changing conditions. The more proactively an organization can pivot, the less stress the organization and its team members experience.
Opportunities Are Often Missed (and Masked) in Dentistry
There are infinite examples of organizations not pivoting on their approaches in a timely-enough manner. Fortunately, dentistry is a reasonably profitable industry, but this often masks the missed opportunities that other industries couldn’t afford to miss. The effect of reacting too late typically isn’t one that would lead the practice to go out of business, but rather creates an inability to maximize opportunities for both the organization and its team members.
Here’s a common example about bonuses:
For those organizations with incentive programs, a bonus structure might start out as highly incentivizing and achievable. Over time, as the constraints of the organization and the faces on the team change, leaders often force themselves to perpetuate a system that’s more difficult to achieve through no less effort of the team members, which makes it less motivating. Even if team members have the opportunity to make more in bonuses in the organization and the overall compensation package is more competitive, they may not be actually seeing that in their paychecks.
In this case, an inability to pivot will lead to a short-handed team, which won’t be able to fulfill the demand for patient care and the practice profitability will suffer as a result.
Here’s another example:
Many organizations try to set themselves apart by focusing marketing and leadership efforts on a specialty and hoping that will translate to more traditional dental care opportunities. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but organizations often lack the discipline to put the right systems in place to measure and understand how profitable those services are. They often misunderstand how much they are driving other services and the opportunity cost associated with taking this approach.
There’s typically a lot of research, rationalization, and hope before executing on this plan, but not enough focus on measuring progress and success. If the evaluation of this method is flawed or not being done at all, the practice owner won’t know when or how to best pivot, which can knock them off the course of their long-term strategic plan.
Ideally, an organization has the appropriate leaders and leadership structure to be constantly evaluating strategy and results.
Minimally, an annual review of key people and processes will help identify opportunities.
In conjunction with reviews, here are a few indicators that a “deeper dive” is warranted to keep you on track:
- Growth: You have stopped growing, or lag behind peers
- Consistency: Some aspects of your organization are consistently succeeding while others are constantly failing or in turmoil
- You’re working harder vs. smarter: You’re putting in more sweat and physical equity with no additional return
- Patient Care: You don’t have enough (or too many) patients coming through your door
- People: You have high turnover and difficulty recruiting
- Niche Focus: What has made you stand out in the community no longer appears to have value
- Drive: You’ve lost some of your passion in leading your organization
So, take a moment and think about any areas in your organization where you may need to pivot.
(And, be sure to make a plan so you don’t end up metaphorically stuck in a stairwell with a big couch.)