Change is the Only Constant
Change is the Only Constant
It is no surprise to anyone that technology is rapidly changing the face of dental laboratory field. Change will happen whether we want it to or not, so the only option is how we embrace and incorporate the changes. There are numerous articles discussing the why we should change, but few (if any) discuss the how to implement the changes. Here is a six-step process to implement change within the dental laboratory.
What is Change Management?
Change management is a structured approach to shifting/transitioning individuals, teams and organizations from a current state to a desired future state. It is a process used to create a new corporate culture and to respond to the ebb and flow of the ever changing business environment. The three groups influenced during change are people, processes and equipment. The common denominator in each group is people and it is people that will determine the successfulness of the changes. Understanding people and how they respond to change will help in implementing change within the laboratory.
Implementing change can be done with a six step process:
- Vision. Change has to begin with a vision. The vision is the end result of all the changes. It is what drives all decision-making during change. This vision has to be communicated clearly from management for others to understand what exactly the laboratory is trying to achieve. Management also has to walk the walk during the change process or credibility will be lost. If individuals do not see management making the change, neither will they.
- Goals. Specific goals need to be outlined. These goals are what will be achieved after the changes are made. Each goal should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely). For example, the goal is to increase individual production by five units a day within three weeks of implementing changes. Each goal leads to achieving the vision of the laboratory.
- Buy in. Each person involved in the change process should be committed and buy in to the changes. Buy in is the most important aspect of making lasting changes. It is management's job to communicate how the changes are beneficial to each person. Once this has taken place, change will be easier. One way to get buy in is to include the people affected by the change in the change process. Employees will have some ownership in the change process and will make the changes enthusiastically.
- Removing obstacles. As stated above, the three groups influenced by change are people, processes and equipment. They are also the obstacles to change, with the largest being people. Removing these obstacles is necessary for change to take place. People do not always believe change is necessary and the current way is acceptable. The we've-always-done-it-this-way mentality will need to be broken for change to occur. If people are to change, they need to see what the benefit is for them. People also need to know, they are not the ones being changed, just the processes and equipment are changing. As processes and equipment change, it is imperative that everyone receives the necessary training required. Training the employees will take away the fear associated with new technology. If the laboratory is introducing equipment that can be seen as replacing technicians, it is imperative to communicate how the equipment is enhancing the technician's job, not replacing it.
- Determination. During the change process, there will be times when it will be easy to fall back into the old way of doing things. These times may be during busy times of the year or when there are a lot of units to get out in one day. It is crucial to stick to the changes during this time of temptation. Doing so will prove that the new way is effective in all situations.
- Feedback and reward. Nurturing the new environment is done by providing feedback to everyone. This feedback will demonstrate to the employees the effectiveness of the new way and that all of their hard work has paid off. Any shortcomings should also be communicated to demonstrate areas of improvement and management's openness to the findings of the change process. The laboratory should be rewarded as a team, not individuals, for making the changes successful.
Implementing change does not have to be a daunting task. By following the provided six step process, changes can be made easily within the dental laboratory. The vision of the laboratory can soon become a reality in which everyone can reap the benefits.
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