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Progress Not Perfection

Posted On: Tuesday, November 20th 2012 by

(Wendy Briggs, RDH is our guest blogger today at Sidekick Magazine)

One of the most common questions I am asked after speaking at a conference or seminar concerns making considerable changes in hygiene. Sometimes, it’s the hygiene providers that are excited and energized about all the new ideas they have learned. They are anxious to make changes, and fear lack of support from other team members or the doctor. Sometimes, it’s the doctor asking about how to accomplish improvements in productivity, or how to go about getting the team on board. My answer to these questions is always to be careful how you go about initiating change.

What we are looking for when establishing systems in a hygiene department, or a practice in general is progress. We are often impatient. We are impatient with ourselves, we are impatient with our team members. We hear about a new technique, we learn about a new report and we want immediate changes. We expect perfection with this new technique before we have put in time and effort on the fundamentals.

Even the best performers need to focus on fundamentals. No matter how long you have been practicing, no matter how often you perform the same techniques, fundamentals become critical to continual progress.I recently had an incredible experience at the College Baseball World Series. In Omaha, Nebraska eight of the nation’s best college baseball teams competed in a tournament to determine who would become the champion. Many teams entered the tournament, these eight were the most successful of them all. My family attended several games during the tournament and saw some incredible baseball. It was what I noticed before the games that was the most impressive though.

Here they were in the biggest game of their lives, and they were warming up on the field. What were they doing? Basic fundamentals. They were stretching, throwing a ball back and forth and fielding ground balls. At one point, the entire team was doing a very basic drill, practicing leading off. A coach was leading them, and they were doing an exercise that I have seen 10 year olds do when they are just learning the game.

Do you think it’s possible that some players felt they were above this? “I already know how to do that, I have done it before…” I am sure that some probably did feel this way. But what impressed me, is that these champions did it anyway! They were not above focusing on the basics that would help them be successful.

When we want to improve our performance, we sometimes overlook the basics. We are looking for a quick fix, or a “Hygiene Overhaul” or someone else to figure out how to make it better. Sometimes having someone come in to your practice and help is a great thing.

When we spend a day with a team, however, we are careful to avoid that quick fix! Where do we start? You guessed it, the fundamentals. The very basic tasks that can have a powerful impact on the bottom line.

Once these are addressed, it is gratifying to see changes happen for the better. My favorite stories to share are those where the hygiene team exceeds even their expectations. They are so thrilled with what they were able to accomplish, more than they even thought possible.

We still stress though, that perfection is not what we are striving for. Progress is the goal. Some practices just take off! It’s like that Homerun in the College World Series that wins the game. The crowd goes crazy, the fans are jumping up and down!

In other situations, forward progress is more slow going. Some games are won a base hit at a time. Although the homeruns are exciting and fun, the consistent forward progress of a base hit is what usually wins the game.

How can we be more consistent, and continue with that forward progress? We have to work at it. There is no magic pill, no new fangled piece of equipment that will win it for you. It’s a constant focus on the little things that can help us improve. Each of the teams in the tournament knew what they wanted. They wanted to win! We often don’t know exactly what it is that we are working towards. I find that having a clearly defined list of goals helps me know what I need to do to accomplish those goals. What are you doing to prepare yourself for success during your day? If your goal is higher patient service, do you have a plan to make that happen? If you are looking to increase productivity, what steps are you taking on a consistent basis to improve your skills?

The stretches and drills were not enough for the championship teams in Omaha. Before the game, many of them took a moment as a team to mentally compose themselves. We should do the same.

In our efforts to improve, a clear direction and constant focus on the steps we need to get there will serve us better than lofty goals with no action plan. How frustrating would it be to strive for perfection, especially knowing that no one is likely to become perfect? I prefer to follow the example of a baseball team.

Focus on where you want to be, and be willing to practice diligently on the basic steps that will get you there. Celebrate the progress you have along the way, work as a team, expect consistent results.

What is the outcome? SUCCESS!

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.”
—Jim Rohn

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