3 keys to make change in your dental practice, without chaos


Making change is hard. It’s also usually not successful.

In her book, Wired to Resist: The Brain Science of Why Change Fails and a New Model for Driving Success, Britt Andreatta, PhD, says that efforts to make change in an office fail 50% to 70% of the time. Those aren’t encouraging odds, especially for dental practice linchpins who strive to make every facet of the office run better. 

But a few tweaks to how you approach change may tilt the odds in your favor. Next time you need to make change in your office, use these three tips to build momentum, get buy-in from staff, and encourage change to take shape among your team—all without the usual chaos. 

Propose change with a story, just like Toy Story 

In the short term, enforcing a change is efficient. In a matter of minutes, you can announce an improvement and know that your team will enact it right away. But in the long term? Constantly pushing change on a team can corrode morale and create pushback. It can even lead to resignations. 

Instead, consider using stories to propose a new idea. They can unite an office and ignite enthusiasm for the idea. Stories, not rules, move us to listen and, more importantly, to act.

But crafting a compelling story that lights up a team? That’s for artsy folks, right? Not at all! Devising a story that creates a movement is possible with the help of the creators of Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Really. Pixar, the studio responsible for Toy Story, Up, Finding Nemo, and WALL-E, uses a simple storytelling framework for its movies, one that you can use for your change campaign. 

Once upon a time there was ___. Every day ___. One day ___. Because of that ___. Because of that ___. Until finally ___. 

Before you announce a change, spend some time fitting it into this template and hearing the perspective of your team rather than relying solely on your perspective. Stories present your team with a colorful vision of the easier, more productive life that your change can create, one that your team will want. 

Back up your story with numbers 

Stories that pull on heartstrings may not secure all the buy-in you need from your staff, especially the decision makers such as the practice owner. To convince this person, you’ll likely face the question, “So why is your idea the one we should go with?” The best answer usually involves statistics

By including data, you show that you understand the pain that you want to solve, and you’re speaking the decision makers’ language. It’s a sign that your office performs better. A 2012 study in the Harvard Business Review reported that companies that use data when making decisions are more productive and profitable.  

When using stats to show your change is the right one, consider collecting and calculating two groups of data. The first should show the challenge that your office faces, such as hours spent on a task, missed reactivation opportunities, and patient dissatisfaction rates. 

The second group of data should illustrate the improvement your change can make, especially compared to the first group of statistics. This includes potential cost and time savings, production gains, and patient satisfaction increases. If your change truly is the right one, the numbers should speak for themselves. Even better, they will speak exactly to the concerns of your practice’s decision-makers. 

Follow up to follow through

Remember how many change initiatives fail? Between 50% and 70%. Many of them falter after leaders and supervisors approve them. Imagine that after all of the hours spent researching and campaigning for a solution, the brilliant idea falls apart. 

Getting the go-ahead from the decision-makers in your office is thrilling. It is a victory that deserves celebration (maybe even cake). But it’s not the end. In fact, it’s only the beginning. When following through with your change, you’ll want to do one thing: follow up. 

Here’s why. From your perspective, your idea fixes a workflow, boosts patient satisfaction, or opens up more budget. But from your team’s perspective, it will alter their routine. Any changes in habit often require many reminders and much patience. 

That’s where scheduling follow-ups come in. Putting check-ins on the books can prevent reactive blow-ups when you see a team member revert to the old way and can move your team’s adoption along more easily. 

As difficult as change can be, no practice or career can thrive without it. But by committing to these three steps, you’ll help your practice and your career grow, with more purpose and less chaos.   

David McCarthy, MA, is a content marketing manager at RevenueWell, whose dental practice marketing and communication solutions boost practices’ bottom line, build better relationships with patients, and streamline operations. David is the author of the free playbook How to Make Change in Your Dental Practice. You can reach him at [email protected]   

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