Emmott on Technology: Leadership During a Dental Technology Transition Starts with a Clear Vision

Emmott on Technology: Leadership During a Technology Transition
Thursday, December 13, 2012

Leaders know where they are going and inspire others to go with them.

The biggest mistake dentists make when implementing new technology is a failure of leadership.

Business teachers make a classic distinction between leaders and managers. Leaders look to the future, set goals, create the mission and direct the entire team. Managers are responsible for seeing that things actually get done. Managers take care of details and direct individual team members in doing the daily tasks required to get successfully negotiate the day. Leaders set the vision and managers carry out the procedures.­­­

Big companies will have a CEO setting the vision, managers implementing the policy and workers actually making things and getting the work done. In a small business like a dental office the dentist ends up doing all three jobs.

This is true when a dental office attempts to implement new technology. The dentist chooses the product. Directs others in its use and then actually uses it. Often the biggest mistake dentists make when implementing new technology is they fail in the leadership department. That is, they have no long term vision for how technology will enhance the practice, and they fail to inspire the team.

This leads to two problems. With no plan or vision the dentist buys random technology that may or may not be appropriate for the office. They become prey to the best salesman.

Without a coherent plan and an inspiring vision they fail to get team buy in and the staff members never fully utilize the expensive systems the dentist has paid for. Usually the dentist does not even know he or she is not getting full value because the dentist does not know what is possible. You don’t know what you don’t know. If you do not know what is possible, you cannot create a vision and lead the team.

Knowing what is possible starts with curiosity, learning about new things, reading news on sites such as Dentalcompare and just talking with forward thinking colleagues. As Dr. Omar Reed famously said, “If someone has done it, it is probably possible.”

The next step of knowing what is possible is training. Computer training day is not doctor golf day. The dentist does not have to know every click and cranny of the software, but the doctor does need to know what is possible. Far too often dentists settle for far less than their systems can provide because the staff tells them certain things are not possible and the doctor accepts it simply because he or she doesn’t know any better.

Once the vision or the big goal is determined, then follow through. At this point everything else becomes less stressful, because you are not re-making decisions every day.

For example let’s say your goal is to eliminate paper records.

  • Step one: It is possible, someone else has done it
  • Step two: Get specific with training on going paperless for the whole team including the dentist
  • Step Three: See it through

Inevitably change creates stress and there will be a push to just go back to the old way. As the leader if you know it is possible and you know how to do it, you don’t change the goal. However, you can change the process. Maybe you need an additional half day of training; maybe you push a deadline back to the next week. The plans can change but the ultimate goal does not.

In the future change is going to happen. That is inevitable. The only question is will you lead that change. The future is coming and it will be amazing!

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