I have identified five specific conditions that must be created in order for successful and energizing change or transitions to take place.

1. A sense of urgent need and a plan of action that is clear and palpable to everyone on the team.

A sense of urgency with an action plan is the first step. Is the practice growing in all areas? Is stress under control, are you and your team enjoying what you are doing every day in the practice? Are patients accepting treatment that they want, are they motivated to perceive the value of the dentistry you have to offer? As dental insurance continues to change and as our patient’s coverage shrinks will we continue to do well? How would you rate your periodontal program? If you are not confident that your practice is functioning at the highest level possible you need to do exactly what you encourage your patients to do. Get a check-up.

You can hire a resource from outside the practice to audit all systems in the practice and give you a report with suggested recommendations or you can take all the practice systems and divide them between everyone in the office.

To do this it will be important to write out questions that you need answers for in each area to audit all systems. Give the questionnaire to the appropriate team member and have them research the answers and fill out the questionnaire. Each team member should investigate and answer the questions from an area they would normally not work. This will provide you with a more objective approach.

Once the questionnaires have been completed they should be handed into you so that you can analyze the results. Make a list of areas of weakness. Bring the list to the team and have a brainstorming session to develop solutions and an action plan.

If the team is involved in assessing the problems, and developing a list of solutions it is easier to get them to commit to an action plan that will turn areas of weakness in the practice to areas of strength and opportunity.

Once the action plan is written, delegate each item to a team member and ask them to come up with a strategy to accomplish each task and a suggested timetable that can be agreed upon.

2. An Inspiring Mission & Vision

The second element that is essential to getting people to change is to offer them an attractive goal or mission. Because the prospect of change is so frightening, people need not only have an urgent need to leave the past, but the prospect of an unquestionably better future. The stronger the attraction of the future, the greater will be the energy people exert to work toward it.

A powerful mission and vision statement directs and shapes your practice. Think of a vision statement as the container into which you “pour” your practice. Pour water into a cup and it takes the cups shape. If you can’t recognize your practice’s shape, mold it with a new vision.

Creating a vision can be exciting and fun for you and your team. You’ve assembled your dream team in the perfect meeting location. This location should be out of the office, somewhere were no interruptions will happen. Bring paper, markers, tape, an erasable board or flip chart, note pads and pens for everyone. Work through these six steps.

1. Envision the vision: Ask people to close their eyes, then say, “Imagine it’s five years from now. The practice has operated from a vision we created today. We’re known in our community as that vision.” Ask the team and yourself. “What are people saying about us? What are our clients telling neighbors? What are other dental offices saying? What are we saying? What are we providing for our patients? Give everyone a few minutes to capture this picture. Then say, “Now open your eyes. What did you see? What were people saying?” Discuss what the team saw and take notes.

2. Outline all possibilities via brainstorming: for words and phrases that capture the group’s foresight. These examples “seed” the process during brainstorming everything is acceptable. If someone suggests a satellite clinic on the moon, write it down. Nothing squelches possibility more than negative comments. write each word or phrase on a sheet of paper and tape each sheet on the wall. Don’t worry about order. Instruct people to listen for words or phrases that inspire them. Lead by example without dominating. If the conversation slow, call on strong team members. This step takes 10 to 30 minutes. You’ll know it’s time to move ahead when you list 15 or more ideas and hear repeats. Your “vision wall” will be filled with such words and phrases as leadership, caring, high-quality dentistry, excellence, community involvement, compassion, patient education, great patient service, financial integrity and cutting-edge technology. Brainstorming provides raw material to shape your visions.

3. Organize and categorize separate ideas into columns containing similar words or phrases. For example list leadership and dental leader in the same group. If an idea doesn’t fit a category, list miscellaneous concepts in a separate column. Then encourage creative alignment. Each person lets go of opinions about an issue for the group’s benefit, but doesn’t give in on strong individual feelings. While aligning opinions, you’ll also have a powerful team-building experience.

4. Sharpen your focus: After organizing ideas, you’ll probably have four to eight columns of similar words and phrases. Now hone your vision to essential words. Creative alignment and leadership are important as you remove redundancies. If two ideas say the same thing, take a vote.

5. Draft a rough vision statement: Before you begin this step, take a short break. Then give the team 10 minutes to write a statement with the phrases left on the wall. Use, as much material as possible, but it’s not necessary to include every word or phrase. If less than 10 people participate in your vision meeting, ask to pair up with another team member and write a rough draft. If more than 10, break the team into groups of three. You’ll want to have created at least four or five vision statements at the end of this step.

6. Capture the Vision: After creating drafts, ask each group to share their team’s vision statement. Listen for things that excite them. Write each vision statement on the flip chart. One vision statement may stand out. More likely the final version will come from a combination of two or more. Let the team nominate the statement that most reflects the values of the practice. By the end of this process you would have created an amazing mission statement for the practice, and everyone helped create the concept.

When your vision guides daily decisions, you’ll take control of your practice. Remember that a ship with sails filled with wind and its rudder in the water is still out of control unless the captain directs it with the rudder – your vision statement.