Why problem management is the key to growth and change

In service industries, there is an odd tendency to focus on resolving immediate incidents rather than addressing the underlying issues. Unsurprisingly, these can lead to more incidents and the vicious cycle of waste continues. Just like with fault management, it is important to adopt the philosophy of problem management in your practice.

Now admittedly, setting up and practicing problem management can seem like another job altogether to your already congested list of to-dos. However, an efficient problem management system can strengthen your work processes and streamline the system.

What is proper problem management?

Problem management is a mechanism by which the life cycles of all problems are managed. This means that when someone observes a problem or has a problem themself, it is their task to raise the issue. For example, if somebody has deciphered a flaw in the system, with a defective instrument, a work tool, or a workflow, it should be entered into the CRM system which should be set up especially for this purpose on the computer.

If you’re dealing with an especially serious problem, pull the ripcord immediately! Doing so will halt the entire process and you will have an opportunity to see how the problem can be solved. But unfortunately, savings are often made in the wrong areas. If you’re keen on reusing or (provisionally) fixing old, faulty, or partially inoperative devices around your practice in order to cut costs, you’re making a big financial mistake, long-term.

An example: Years ago in one of my practices, the rail on a drawer was defective. Having failed to immediately record the damage, this already broken-down drawer was used again and again until it was ruthlessly kicked to the curb. To no one’s surprise but to plenty dismay, the entire drawer broke. Long story short, the drawer could not be salvaged and had to be completely replaced.

By sweeping seemingly microscopic incidents under the rug, we incurred heavy financial losses that could easily be avoided.

How to train staff on proper problem management?

Training problem and error awareness, again and again, are very important. Your employees must have the courage to address these mistakes and problems without the fear of punishment or blame. Instead of chastising your employees, especially fresh recruits on simple problems around the clinic, apply the four-second rule to inhale, exhale, first think, then speak.

As a rule, the existing team should incorporate these new employees. It should be made clear to everyone in the team what successful error and problem management mean so that you can establish a coherent system in your practice.

Additionally, you must strike a healthy balance between optimal regulation and overregulation while cautiously being aware of overregulation. Remember, regulation should simplify the processes and make them foolproof, allowing all those involved to troubleshoot like they’re on autopilot. On the contrary, overregulation, despite the best intentions, leads to a waste of time, energy, and money.

Aim to eliminate anything that does not create any value for the system. The is the Lean Orthodontics culture.

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