Article Date: 3/1/2009

The Old Business Model Does Not Play Well Today
o.d. to o.d.

The Old Business Model Does Not Play Well Today

A new vision of the optometric practice shows an organization that can aspire, create, adapt and learn.

BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Chief Optometric Editor

As my role as a full-time consultant expands, I continue to study management both in theory and in its real life application for the optometric practice and the optometric business models. A good portion of my studies focus on organizational behavior and the typical organizational structure. While every optometrist wants to explain why his or her practice is different, in my experience far more similarities than differences exist.

As a result of the changes in the market and optometric business models, I feel confident in stating that the business model of optometry "in the day" not only doesn't play well in the present but has little chance of survival. Today and in the future, the success of optometric practices will continue to become more a function of not just the strength of you, the doctor, but also of your organization (practice) as a whole.

A learning organization

The learning organization is the basis for success, according to Peter Senge, scientist and director of the Center for Organizational Learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management. A learning organization is conceptualized by Senge as: "…organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free and where people are continually learning to see the whole together."

It struck me that successful optometric practices have applied the primary principles of Senge's learning organization. The first principle is the learning organization, or practices where staff continually expand their capacity to learn and the capacity of their position to learn, thereby creating an opportunity for each individual to grow within the organization rather than leaving it for a growth opportunity.

Next is the opportunity to allow staff to utilize generative as well as adaptive learning. Adaptive learning is basically learning to survive, whereas generative learning is learning to re-create oneself and thereby the organization's approach to the market. In optometry, we have seen practices we could consider "learning organizations" apply both methods of learning in order to not only survive but to thrive in an ever-changing and more complex market. Practices that have adapted new, efficient business models and organizational structures have continued to grow in an increasingly difficult market economy.

Thinking in terms of systems

Systems thinking, or the ability to comprehend and address the organization as a whole as well as examine the interrelationship between the parts, is where much of the forward thinking in optometry has occurred. In today's successful optometric practice, each individual must have a complete understanding of what they contribute in their area of expertise and how it complements — and is complemented by — the others in the organization.

Generally, if an optometric practice displays the characteristics of a "learning organization," it inherently employs systems thinking and therefore generative learning.

As you make your plans to attend state and regional optometric meetings as well as the American Optometric Association Congress, remember that the success of your organization depends on the growth of the individuals in it. Take your staff! OM



Optometric Management, Issue: March 2009