fix this practice
Learning How to Work
One key to practice success is getting
your staff to work as a team.
Richard S. Kattouf, O.D.
Q A doctor has multiple departments in his main
independent practice plus satellite locations. He wants all departments and
locations to operate in the same manner, but they compete with each other. What
can a doctor do to solve this problem?
Dr. A. L. Diamond, via e-mail
A: One of the key ingredients to success for
department stores, restaurants and many other businesses that have multiple
locations is the uniformity with which they operate every location.
Zeroing in on the problem
In comparison, most doctors who I've consulted
with get a failing grade in setting up a standard operating procedure and
enforcing it on a daily basis. This universal problem in the solo and branch
practices is caused by lack of staff training, poor ownership awareness of staff
performance on a day-to-day basis, no defined consequences to negative behavior
by staff, owners not exhibiting a strong leadership role and the absence of a
current code of behavior and performance that all team members must abide by.
Jealousies, cliques and gossip are major causes
of competition between departments and locations. Many skilled workers are
"territorial" even though they complain about being over burdened with
work and patients and employees always coming to them with questions and
problems. They resist sharing their knowledge because they enjoy being depended
on and/or are threatened by any new person learning what they know.
PHOTO BY JON FEINGERSH
Developing a program
Every office must have a training program (that
includes checks and balances) that the doctor/owner can administer easily to
each new employee. Test the trainee's knowledge as she takes the course to
ensure that she's absorbing the material.
It's critical to allow the newer staffers who
have completed the course to instruct the workshops in the subject areas where
they have achieved the highest scores. As the teacher, they learn more and
perceptually close the knowledge gap between themselves and the varsity
The subject matter must include ocular anatomy,
pathology, data collection, instrumentation, technical skills, medications,
optical and contact lens dispensing. If each employee receives this knowledge
base from the beginning, then the skill and knowledge gap are almost
To break down the common territorial behavioral
pattern, the doctor/owner must continually stress to all employees that no one's
position is in jeopardy. Develop team commission systems that enable the entire
staff to earn monetary rewards for reaching defined targets. Without all members
of the team pulling their load, the extra money will not likely be earned.
Know what's going on
Consistent awareness on the part of owners and
managers is key. Staff needs daily repetition of proper language skills, fee
collection, phone scripts, intra-office communication, fee presentation and
telephone techniques. Short daily organizational meetings will create a
workplace that has continuity between departments and locations. When staffers
know that ownership has a pulse on their daily behavior/performance, the results
I'll wrap up the discussion on this topic next
Dr. Kattouf is president and founder of two
management and consulting companies. For information, call (800) 745-EYES
or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The information in this column is based on actual consulting files.
Optometric Management, Issue: September 2003