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The Perfect Launch! How to Prepare Your Practice for New Technology

Issue: Fall 2009
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Nothing is more devastating than rushing head first into a new innovation, embracing the vision, firing up your staff, and then stumbling upon “hidden” traps that undermine you and everyone in the practice. Your mission, your patients, and your team need to connect.

Why is it, many committed and passionate dental practice owners wonder, that a revolutionary piece of equipment failed to yield the clinical and economic results anticipated? It was innovative, it clearly supported your standard of care, and your patients were asking for it—what was the ingredient that kept you and your team from experiencing success? The answer was in the LAUNCH—a series of steps that must be taken in order to ensure magic instead of misunderstandings.

Today’s dental market is saturated with “new innovations” almost on a daily basis, which clearly support the contemporary standard of care and promise to generate a return on investment that make them “can’t miss” decisions. The Federal Government has even joined the party by providing tax incentives that allow accelerated depreciation, reducing unplanned Federal income tax liabilities.

Before embracing that next big idea, consider following this LAUNCH protocol that will help you realize its intended promise:

L: Listen open-mindedly to your team, advisors, and patients. Listening is the essential first step in the launch process. Ask the right questions, challenge each other, and demand as much information as possible. As a team you must be able to state the mission of your practice simply and define what constitutes success. You must think through all the possible consequences of any new dental technology and/or strategy and explore all the options before passionately rushing in a new direction. There is a fine line between breakthrough and breakdown—it exists in every practice. Good listening is the key to critical thinking and making wise decisions that will keep your practice on a path of never-ending improvement.

 A: Assign tasks in the new protocol to every team member in your practice. Before you make the investment, determine how, when, why, and where this new tool will be used during the course of the day in your practice and write down every point of contact between staff and patient. From marketing the benefits to your new and existing patients, to assigning how each team member will use and support the use of the investment, you must think through how it will be used, or it won’t. Too often we see practices making material investment in new dental technology that never gets integrated into the daily routine of the practice, creating no return on investment. Or worse, a great new tool is not promoted with the passion to connect to your new and existing patients, keeping this new tool the “best kept secret” in your community. Knowing why and how the tool is to be used must be spelled out in each of your operating policies before being introduced to your team. If you fail to assign the tasks to each team member, as you have visualized, don’t be upset when the investment isn’t used.

 U: Uncover all the things that can and will go wrong before you make the commitment to introduce the new dental technology to your patients. In the research phase of your decision making process meet with other practitioners who have a proven track record with the product. Research the history of the manufacturer and assure yourself that this investment is going to generate the outcome you’re visualizing, worthy of your time and money. You should review testimonials that provide you with the feedback to make an informed decision. If the investment doesn’t pass the clinical, administrative, and economic tests, you can’t move forward with a purchasing and implementation commitment.


 N: Network with experts to learn from their experience. Almost every major piece of equipment or technology being sold today has a qualified list of professionals who have spent countless hours proving that a particular piece of technology is qualified to bring to the market. If success is truly predicted in the preparation phase of any plan, the homework you do in the beginning will reduce the risk of wasted investment in time and money later. You will either “pay” in the beginning or “pay” in the end—my recommendation is that you make the payment consciously, carefully, and consider all variables in the beginning, otherwise you’ll find yourself reacting, regretting, and revolting against the entire process.

 C: Commit to training—for everyone, no exceptions. Practice, practice, and more practice will ensure seamless integration and perfect execution. Insufficient training is often the reason a new investment fails to yield the predicted results. You and every person on your team must be able to explain the use of the equipment, if it can’t be launched with clarity and confidence, it shouldn’t be launched at all. Allocate time with the manufacturer, other users, and regular, weekly onsite training in your facility. Investing time and money to teach everyone demonstrates respect to your team. When implementation is poor, staff members and patients are taken by surprise. By making training integral to your implementation phase, you create a unifying, aligning experience that builds trust in the organization, and trust speeds execution. Remember, amateurs train so they learn to get it right, while professionals train harder to make sure they never make a mistake. Create a nurturing learning experience for your team, and you will grow a team of nurturing, inspirational leaders who readily gain the endorsement of your patients. The difference between two equally equipped teams is the effectiveness of the training, which empowers its members to implement with confidence.

H: Hold the course. Once the protocol has been analyzed, agreed to, perfected, written down, and thoroughly trained on, it must not be changed, unless significant new evidence indicates that it should be modified. Backtracking and second-guessing must cease. Discretionary behavior and inconsistent implementation will destroy the best of intentions. Even a poor strategy consistently implemented, will yield superior results compared to great strategies inconsistently implemented. The ultimate litmus test is your willingness to monitor the performance of everyone on your team, making sure that the launch yields the goals anticipated. Strategy must be everyone’s every day job. People thrive when they know they are making a difference.

 By skipping even one of these steps, it is impossible to gain alignment and effective execution with your team. When an organization is out of alignment due to an ineffective launch, the result is controversy, second guessing, recrimination, finger pointing, and economic failure. It takes courage and confidence for Dental CEO’s who want to take the world by storm to slow down, think, explore all the options, and commit to a methodical, step-by-step, fully integrated launch.