Practice owners, senior executives, and investors in the dental industry are focused almost exclusively on answering the 'burning' problems caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. The complicated issues of cash-flow, paying leases and vendors, repaying loans, staff retention (how many to keep and which ones), when to recommence, getting funding to sustain the interim, and what changes will be necessary or mandated are consuming all the business’ oxygen.
Everything is emergent and evolving at lightning speed.
All attention and intention are focused on the survival of the practice(s), both single practices and mega-DSOs. And, just as distressing for all stakeholders, is wondering how patients will respond post-pandemic in returning to the dental office.
The thinking and actions all these professionals are employing to handle the myriad of complex problems caused by the Covid-19 virus is problem-solving.
Problem-solving is the process of finding solutions to difficult and complex issues. Problem-solving occurs in the present, but the problems you are trying to solve are already in existence when they are recognized. Air filtration, handpiece spray, PPE, teledentistry, staggered patient schedules and reduced revenues are what’s on the table.
However, the cost of spending all your time, energy and money on problem-solving is a strategic miscalculation and results in a crippled ability to navigate the changing future.
Yes, the problems are urgent. Yes, they are immediate. Yes, if left unanswered, practices will go out of existence. The fact that some solutions to these problems are not yet available makes it worse, while other problems have too many suggested solutions, none of which are proven. Faced with no solution, or the wrong solution doesn’t make it easier.
As a problem-solver, whether practice owner, senior executive or investor, you are pursuing solutions to these problems. Solutions that "nail it," dramatically reduce the risk. Solutions that do not cost too much money or time. Solutions that only require a shallow learning curve so installation can occur and manage effortlessly. Solutions that only cause a few changes to the existing structures and personnel.
When the doors open, you need to be ready to operate in the post-virus world.
Your remaining team already had decent closeness if you were successful before the pandemic. There was appreciation, camaraderie, team-play and the individuals on the team delivered on their accountabilities. They were responsible. They were glad to be aboard and working with each other. But those relationships and communications along with their job as performed in the past, will not be enough to have you succeed in this emerging future. The team needs to be far more cohesive.
Cohesion is the action or forming of a “united whole.” Can you move your team from nicely coupled to tightly fused? Can your team have the deepest untarnished regard for each other, individually and collectively? Can your team members be openly authentic and vulnerable? What is required from your leadership to have the team be far more cohesive, unified - one solid unit?
You may not be able to forecast what the future will look like, but you can work on bringing your team closer to each other now. To be more empathetic with each other, able to put the team ahead of self-interest, more coalesced to form a “united whole.” A team that is strongly cohesive will have a much greater capacity to innovate.
Given the speed of change and the uncertainty of what’s coming next, the most effective action in this chaotic environment is innovation. The team must be able to innovate their way through the turmoil and confusion that is occurring. Without strong cohesion, the power to innovate is reduced dramatically.
Our Model for Creating Cohesion
Problem-solving does not create the level of cohesion needed for effective innovation. So, part of our work is about expanding the leader’s focus beyond problem-solving to have them pay attention to making their team more cohesive. The leader needs to work on more than just problems.
Problem-solving does not expand well-being, personal power, learning, teamwork, love, appreciation and wisdom. Those things that nurture the human spirit and allow for creativity, hence greater innovation.
Innovation is the capacity to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas or products. Dental practice has been practiced in the same manner, albeit with significant upgrades and technologies in all that it does. But these upgrades were based on more, better and different iterations of the same thing that has always been done. Making existing things better will not carry the day in the post-Coronavirus world.
In my work with clients, we spend time, intention and attention on building highly cohesive senior teams that have tremendous power to innovate.
Below is our model we use to develop greater cohesiveness in teams.
As a leader, we suggest you consider expanding your thinking and focus on how to have your team be more cohesive, constantly moving your team closer to that unified whole. If that is now your charge, there is work to be done with the team to bring them together, to reduce the distance between people and to increase their “glueyness.” The team needs to see with the same eyes. Not only are team members on the same page, they are on the same line on the same page.
Since you’re home, watch Apollo 13 – to witness what innovation is when a team is facing mortal danger. And when you watch, notice how cohesive the team has become to solve their dilemma.