Success is a habit – How to form habits that last

Good quality management helps you achieve and maintain the desired level of quality within your dental practice. We are in a golden age of quality management, however, much cannot be said about its successful application. When it comes to work routines, it is almost always the same done-and-dusted story:

The orthodontist, the dentist, or the head of the practice gives instructions, for example, on how to arrange instruments in the drawer. He or she assumes that with a few quick demonstrations their staff will implement it this way. But to no one’s horror, this “rule” does not stick. Employees change something in the course of time. The dentist himself does not adhere to the routine he set up himself. And mostly, no one even talks about it.

This is where the need for good quality management arises. Good quality management requires that all those involved in the process exchange information and questions that bring some validity to the routine: what works for us, for our work processes, and our everyday life? Here, the boss must play the part of a role model and consistently assist in the implementation of the routine.

Work processes should also be constantly scrutinized: Is that really the best way to do it? Can we improve the process? How can we do that? Sometimes these are little things like: Did I actually make eye contact with the patient and address him by name? By creating a habit of positive development and improvement, you can lead your team to continuous development until the habit becomes first nature.

How can you implement positive habits that last?

According to Pulitzer Price winner, Charles Duhigg (based on his book “Power of Habit”), habits are the brain’s way of saving energy. The route that all habits take can be condensed into a 3-step loop:

  • The cue: Recognize and perceive a stimulus
  • The routine: Assign a regular action to this stimulus
  • The reward: Link with a sense of satisfaction, pride, or success, i.e. a reward when the action has been performed

Now, let’s use the implementation using bracket loss as a simple example of a problem that occurs in everyday orthodontic life:

  • The cue: The bracket is fixed
  • The routine: Check whether there is composite on the tooth or on the bracket. If there is composite on the tooth, the fault lies in the bracket preparation. If composite is on the bracket, then the mistake is in the preparation of the tooth.
  • The reward: Now that you have found the solution, the reward should come from both the employee and the boss. “Great, I solved the problem!”, says the employee. The boss responds, “Great, you solved the problem! Keep it up!”.

To change a habit, all you need to do is to keep the old cue and deliver the old reward but insert a new routine. In this way, you can shape the habits in the shortest possible time and move towards continuous improvement. The employees can gradually transfer this to all areas on their own, making them masters of problem-solving.

Another brilliant psychological phenomenon may be implemented here, called “chunking”. In chunking, individual sections of the problem solution are assembled into process chains. What this does is gives the advantage to the involved parties as they no longer have to individually consider the process steps, but the entire process runs automatically. Once the process is automated, it does not require you to do any mental laps. Instead, it saves time, energy and reduces errors! This is Lean Orthodontics® and this is Kaizen.

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