To survive and thrive in dentistry, your practice needs to be dynamic and provide consistency of service to your patients. Implementing Standard Operating Policies and Procedures (SOPS) will provide consistency and protect your office in an ever changing environment .
Why do you need SOPs?
1. They define process
2. They provide structure
3. They are guidelines
4. They clarify your expectations
5. They assist in Training and Team Development
Daily Operating Policies and Procedures, as well as clear job descriptions, are essential tools for all dental practice. Policies are guidelines for how the organization will respond in any particular situation, and they designate any exceptions in typical responses. Job descriptions should include a reference to the policy and procedure manual to use as job aids to maintain consistency of practice. That way, the employee doesn’t implement bad habits that he/she might have developed when working with another office and it is clear how you want the employee to perform their duties at your office. It is a way of displaying visible support for your employees.
Dental office teams are generally self directed. They are sometimes called self-managed teams, empowered work units, or autonomous work teams —function in their truest sense without supervisory authority . Team members are interdependent, but the role of a direct supervisor is usually absent.
When working with self-directed teams, you often discover that the systems and policies of your organization don’t always make sense. Areas that may require change include quality assurance practices, health and safety standards, vendor relations, compensation, staff administration, work schedules, employee recognition, and performance reviews.
You don’t want your self-managed teams constantly colliding with internal obstacles when they are charged with managing those same functions. Daily Operating Systems and guidelines serve as a barrier buster, helping your teams grow and manage their own performance and produce positive outcomes.
3. Guidelines and the Importance of Delegation
Some surveys rank “inability to delegate” as the No.1 reason that managers/dentists fail despite the ongoing efforts to prove otherwise. Dentists cannot be ubiquitous – you can’t do everything yourself. Even if you could, doing everything by yourself isn’t the most effective use of your time and talent as a dentist.
Delegation of duties is a path to empowerment. When you delegate work to employees, you multiply the amount of work that you can do. A project that seems overwhelming on the surface is suddenly quite manageable when you divide it up among 12 different employees. Furthermore, when you delegate work to employees, you also create opportunities to develop their work and leadership skills
Information is power and an important step on the path to empowerment. As a dentist you simply don’t have the time to communicate your expectations on an on ongoing basis. Creation of standard operating policies and procedures helps to clearly state what is expected and provides consistency, even if you have staffing changes
4. Role Clarity
Effective job performance starts with clear goals and understanding of what is expected. Meet with your employees to develop realistic, attainable goals that guide them in their efforts to achieve your office’s vision. Don’t leave your employees in the dark. Help them to help you, and your office, by setting goals and then by working with them to achieve those goals.
The health of your dental office, especially during times of change, depends on the widespread dissemination of information throughout an organization and the communication that enables this to happen. Employees must be empowered with information so that they can make the best decisions quickly.
To empower your employees is to do three actions:
1. Give employees the freedom to get a job done (no breathing down their necks).
2. Provide employees with the right level of support to get the job done well, including information, training, resources, and so on.
3. Hold employees accountable to produce the outcomes needed.
Give all those involved in executing the tactical plan the resources and level of authority they need to do their part
5. Training and Development
Reviewing the operations plans during a team meeting is a superb coaching process. Your staff acquire the know how of asking questions, exercising their skills of encouraging inquiry and getting all viewpoints out. Threading these dialogues together builds relationships, energizes your people to expand their capacities .
It is through teamwork that your mission will be accomplished. We set ourselves up for failure when we don’t clearly communicate our expectations. The success of your practice depends upon the personal and professional success of each team member and their ability to align their goals to join forces to reach shared goals
How to Write an Operating Policies Manual
A policy should begin with the policy statement, which is the overarching theme that aligns with your mission. Outcomes need to be clearly defined and stated – they will provide a means of measurement. How do you measure the success? (metrics) They should include step-by-step procedures to serve as a job aid and describe the steps that employees must follow in a particular situation
Creating Policies and Procedures take the decision making out of the planning and execution process by stating emphatically what must be done, how it should be done and by whom. It is the difference between going along okay and having streamlined practice that runs at optimal operational efficiency. The operating plan specifies how the various moving parts of the business will be synchronized to achieve the targets.
The more people who are aware of your expectations, the more you achieve. An operations plan is about total responsibility. Team members bring assumptions about their roles through the lenses of their functions and their positions which helps each person to align his/her personal goals with the overall plan for the office.
Why have Operating Policies?
If expectations are not clearly identified and stated, they are bound to be missed. Collaborate with your team and define who needs to do what action and by when. This builds in accountability for the outcome. Discuss issues and blockages that may block success and contingency plans.
Standard operating procedures for all critical tasks result in desired outcomes that fulfill the mission and objectives of the practice. A user-friendly, well organized, functional manual that is supported by those who created it and can be used for training new team members, conducting performance evaluations, problem solving, conflict resolution, service enhancement and increased profitability.
The heart of the working of a business is how the three processes of people, strategy and operations link together. Leaders need to master the individual process and the way they work together as a whole.
If you wish to obtain a sample operating policy to get started, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line – sample policy. If you wish to have a policy on a specific topic, such as appointment scheduling, or accounts receivable, please include that information and I will be happy to provide a sample.