Create lean teams with a laser-sharp focus on the development

Lean emphasizes the need to decrease waste and increase value. And while we are on the subject, the waste of human resources is one that many companies are still burdened with. The staff is the heart of any practice, and even for orthodontic practices, this holds true. They carry out comprehensive duties around the practice that directly influence the workflow and patient satisfaction. Your staff is usually the ones who spend most of their time attending patients, be it on the phone, email, or on social media.

But the million-dollar question still prevails: How many members of staff do you really need? Whether you are at the start-up phase of your practice or are blooming in your heyday, understanding the number of personnel you need is relevant for all.

The concept of marginal utility

In economics, there is a term that best fits this narrative, called “marginal utility”. This refers to the increase in the value of a good that a person or a group receives through an additional unit of this good. In other words, it acknowledges the additional satisfaction or benefit that a customer would derive from buying an additional unit of a commodity or service.

For example, if you’re aching with hunger and eat a steak, the benefit of that good is high (it tastes good and you get full). Now, if you ate a second steak, the benefit would be less because you were already full after the first steak, and so it probably doesn’t taste as good as the first. The marginal utility thus decreases with each further unit (bite) of the good (steak).

Similarly, there is the concept of marginal costs, that is the costs incurred by the production of an additional unit of a good. You wouldn’t dare explain to the waiter that the second steak should actually be cheaper just because your marginal utility or satisfaction has decreased.

Lean for personnel classification

Economic goods are physical objects or services, and so are also the personnel. Now if you try to dissect this methodology of marginal utility and apply it to your orthodontic practice, you will soon realize that three employees do not necessarily achieve three times as much as one single employee. But rather, the costs do.

As staff density increases, you will notice a gradual decline in individual performance and hence additional backup personnel would be needed. This happens when the work processes do not function as they should. Another example is an assembly line that is not working at full capacity. In order to curb this issue, the company makes an amateur mistake and employs more workers.

Doing so does not necessarily increase output. Instead, it will give rise to the need for additional management – in this case, a second assembly line. This can be effortlessly transferred to the deployment of staff in orthodontic practices.

How to effectively utilize personnel?

The golden rule lies in versatility. Instead of hiring more personnel, utilize the employees you have to the fullest degree by training them appropriately and versatilely. An employee who is “fulfilled” by their work during the entire working time and who is continuously challenged usually enjoys their work more than someone who has to survive unplanned empty and waiting periods again and again. Here’s another tip: avoid unnecessary overlaps of the task areas.

These empty and stagnant phases often allow the employees with unwarranted and unpleasant distractions like their mobile phones or taking a long break and arriving late. The same principle can be applied to you as the boss. If you’re repeatedly jumping back and forth between in-office administrative work and attending to your patient, you become exhausted and your efficiency decreases.

Save your energy and redirect it to address one problem at a time. This creates a flow experience and is exactly what Lean Orthodontics wants you to achieve: processes in a constant flow of added value.

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