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The Importance of Change Management for Growing DSO’s

November 15, 2021

For dental service organizations acquiring new practices and dental practices growing into multi-location practices, there's a big shift on the horizon. As dental practices are heavily influenced by a small number of individuals deeply involved in the day-to-day operations, differences between offices are inevitable. Practices with ingrained systems and ways of thinking will likely feel the friction of operationalizing and streamlining best practices and procedures across locations as the overall organization grows. 

This change can be a great thing for your dental practice—if you know how to manage change.

The trouble is, human beings have a natural tendency to resist change. This is where change management becomes essential for growth. Here's a look at why change management can help you navigate rapidly changing times and how you can implement new technologies or initiatives successfully in your practice(s).

What is Change Management?

Change management refers to the manners and methods a company (or dental practice) uses to describe and implement change.

Change management involves a strategic approach to change, as more often than not we can't simply implement a change and expect it to succeed without proper delivery and guidance. Leaders must account for all the elements that go along with the change, like preparing employees for the shift, implementing tools for successful change, and monitoring the transition to check for any growing pains.

Why Change Management is Essential for Your Growing DSO

Change management is essential as practices become part of a larger DSO or scale into multiple locations.

Making changes isn't simply a matter of altering policies or introducing new ways of ordering dental supplies. Ultimately, change is about people who agree to change the way they work.

The problem is that people often resist change, especially in a work setting. They worry about keeping their positions, impressing the boss,  and even knowing how to use new technology.

Change management recognizes that it's not enough to simply rewrite the rule book. Change is a gradual process, and people respond best to change when they have time to adjust to it and accept it.

In addition, successful change management sets your business up for scalable, long-term growth. Ultimately, the goal is to grow, operate more efficiently, and save money across the entire enterprise. Change management sets you up for sustained growth by establishing buy-in from day one.

The Importance of Employee Buy-In

It is true that people like doing things the way they've been done. It's comfortable and familiar. However, people don't mind changes in how they work if they feel like they had a say. Even if they were asked for their opinion and the final result went a different direction, people are still more receptive than if they weren't asked for their opinion at all.

Here's the thing: employees understand that change happens. The problem is when employees think change leaves them behind, which opens up a whole host of fears about inadequacy and job security.

You could forge ahead without employee buy-in, but its likely to cause resentment and make people even more resolve in their previous ways. One way or another, any organization relies on a group of people doing their jobs, and if they do their jobs inconsistently, that translates to an inconsistent patient experience.

You might think you're making a change for the better, but if your employees don't agree to change the way they work or resist changing the way they work, your team and possibly your patients won't see the benefit (depending on the change being implemented).

For example, supply purchasing is vastly different across DSO locations—which makes employees highly resistant to new systems. DSOs often lose money in this area.

On the other hand, if employees buy into the change, they can actually champion the transition to patients and make the patient experience far stronger. It also drives efficiency. If you have buy-in for adoption of a procurement platform , for example, employees actively help the organization save money.

In short? If you don't have employee buy-in, you don't have successful change.

DSO Change Management- Where to Start?

The good news is that change management provides a framework to establish employee buy-in. It can be as minute or as broad as you'd like depending on the extent of the change, as long as you cover three key points.

Know Your Starting Point and Ending Point

First, know where you are and where you're going.

This might sound simple, but without it, you're already off on the wrong foot. If you don't know your starting point and ending point, you won't be able to explain the transition or why it's essential. If you can't explain it, your employees won't understand. And without understanding, you won't have buy-in.

Don't treat your employees like children, but don't leave them in the dark either. Take the time to explain where you are and where you're headed in simple terms. Explain how the transition will help and what the new expectations will be. Give ample opportunities to ask questions.

Identify Pain Points and Fears

While you do this, make sure to identify the pain points that might lead your employees to resist the change. For example, are they afraid of learning a new technology because they're used to the old one? Are they worried about how it will alter their work process? Are they worried about losing their jobs?

If you know why your employees resist change, you can do a better job of addressing their fears. That way, they can understand the change and prepare for it. For example, if employees are worried about new skills required by the change, implement skills training.

Be Open and Transparent

Last but not least, be open and transparent—and give your team the chance to do the same.

Ask your team to talk about any concerns they might have, even if you think you already know the answer. They may mention something you hadn't considered. This gives you a chance to address those worries, and it gives employees the chance to be heard. Plus, it may even make the change process stronger by accounting for a new element you overlooked.

The Tools You Need for DSO Growth

There are many tools, platforms and technologies that can help manage areas of growth opportunity in a DSO.  For example, the purchasing and procurement processes of the individual practices are often very different. Gaining visibility into how supplies are ordered and at what prices majorly impacts the bottom line.

procurement platform is an integral part of a growing DSO, but only with the discovery process and change management considerations mentioned above. You can introduce new ways of doing business to your growing DSO that will increase efficiencies and save money! Considering the people involved in these changes is pertinent to the successful adoption of new technology.

When you're ready, check out Supply Clinic's ProSuite, a procurement platform for DSO's and multi-location dental practices. ProSuite is a robust, yet easy-to-use dental supply purchasing and order management software. It enables your organization to set budgets, establish formulary compliance and access hundreds of vendors from one platform, with one payment.

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