Saturday, June 12, 2010

Good-bye Morning Huddle

For over 20 years we have taught the value of having a morning huddle. We’ve produced agendas. We’ve trained and retrained. We’ve spoken about it at seminars, workshops and on-site visits. Now, in what may sound like a contradictory move, we are officially banning the morning huddle. No more. Don’t do it. Save the time and save the hassle.

Here’s why…

What’s in a name? Sometimes the title or name that we give things implies so much it is hard to get through the real meaning. Yes, teams huddle on the field, but it is a brief meeting where one person calls the play and every yells “break.” Well, dentistry isn’t football folks. In fact, the most effective teams we have worked with don’t have a morning huddle at all. They have transformed the “get together and call the play of the day” morning huddle into something we have coined the “Morning Opportunity Meeting” or M.O.M. for short.

The primary thing that characterizes the M.O.M. is its middle name: Opportunity. The primary focus is uncovering, strategizing, and planning around the day’s opportunities. Done correctly, everyone has a say and everyone has a part to play. Here are some examples of the opportunities we are talking about:

1. What’s the best thing that happened yesterday? If you have attended any of our ToPS seminars or workshops, you’ve heard us talk about this important first topic of any M.O.M. Focus on what worked yesterday that could be an opportunity to duplicate today. Is there something you said that resulted in a “yes” from a patient? Is there something another team member did that was particularly helpful that could be done again today to increase productivity and effectiveness? Looking every day at the opportunities around duplicating what is working is essential. Practices that build upon daily successes stay true to the effort of “constancy of purpose” on which the best offices focus.

2. Unscheduled treatment – doctor’s schedule. Long before the huddle begins, like the afternoon before, someone on the team takes responsibility for looking at the next day’s schedule and reviewing the charts of the patients who are going to see the doctor for restorative treatment. Beyond the treatment that is scheduled, what other potential work do these patients have that is not yet scheduled? Even if it has only been a day or two since they accepted the treatment for which they are returning, things can change. They went home. They thought about things you said. Maybe they have additional questions. Maybe they reconsidered and are teetering on the point of doing more than they originally agreed. You don’t know until you ask:
Mrs. Jones, just checking in with you about those other teeth we discussed that are in the same area where we are going to do the crown today. Like we discussed, while we are there and close, it would save you a lot of time and potential hassle to just take care of them right now as well. Not pushing here, but I just wanted to double check before we get started. Would you like to take care of the other two teeth as well while we are at it?”
The exact words you use are not as important as giving the patient the space to say “yes” to more. It all starts with identifying those opportunities every morning in your M.O.M.

3. Unscheduled treatment – hygiene. Every afternoon before going home, each hygienist reviews his or her schedule and the corresponding charts for the next day. In most cases, those charts are a gold mine of unscheduled treatment. Knowing what is going on with every patient and where the opportunities are to schedule some of that unscheduled treatment is a big part of the M.O.M. Letting everyone on the team know who is a candidate to schedule treatment that has been diagnosed but not performed is a critical ingredient for success. It is a team effort. The presentation around unscheduled treatment in this case can take various forms and directions. The first step, however, is awareness. If you don’t know it is there, you are not likely to act on it. The first step is doing the research so that you and the rest of the team are in the know.

4. Same day treatment. The best type of unscheduled treatment is treatment that you could do today with some minor changes in the schedule. Once you know who has what unscheduled treatment, look at the schedule together as a team to see what could be adjusted in the timing to accommodate existing patients who would like to have it done today. The best opportunities are the ones that can be taken care of right now. Not tomorrow, the next day or next week. NOW! Teams that have refined their M.O.M. strategies are always looking for ways in advance where they can be nimble, adjust in the moment, and open up opportunities that make it easy for patients to say “yes” to something they can do today.

5. Same day treatment - new patients. Another topic of discussion is new patients. A quick review of each new patient’s “New Patient Relationship Form*” will help everyone understand the background and desires of each new patient. Many times the desires that were expressed on the phone when they scheduled will include comments about treatment, problem areas, an interest in whitening, etc. Everyone needs to know where those potential opportunities are in advance. For example, let’s say a patient mentioned on the phone that they are interested in whitening. In case they are a good candidate to have that done today, are there any adjustments you need to make or can make to help them get that done today? What if they mentioned some problem areas? Look at your schedule in your M.O.M. and see what would have to happen in order to accommodate them today if there is something that needs to be done. For most patients, there is no time like the present to get started. Looking for opportunities to help them do that will help everyone get more of what they want.

6. Emergencies. That’s right! Emergencies can be one of the best opportunities of the day. During your M.O.M., the best time for emergencies should always be identified. A day with no time for emergencies is a day that has not been properly planned. Figure out a way during your M.O.M. to take care of emergency patients should they call. An emergency planned for is no emergency for you. It’s an opportunity!

7. Openings in the schedule. Everyone has had the experience of looking at the schedule at the morning huddle and seeing holes. Most get that sinking feeling when they see that. Instead, look at them as opportunities. What can be moved around, adjusted, or moved up in order to free up more opportunities. If there is a hole later in the morning, is there a patient scheduled later in the day who might like to come in earlier? Who are the patients on your “short call” list who might want to come in on short notice? Where are the same day treatment opportunities where you can move a patient into that space that is coming in any way? The best teams always say that some of their best days start out looking like Swiss Cheese, and end up looking like a solid block because they are better able to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves throughout the day.

8. Tomorrow’s opportunities. What is scheduled for tomorrow? Are there any openings in the schedule? If so, today is the time to make sure everyone on the team knows they are there so everyone can be focused on taking advantage of that opportunity of scheduling patients who say “yes” today on tomorrow’s schedule while they are eager.

I could go on because the daily opportunities that present themselves in most offices are numerous. Do you take advantage of those opportunities by accident or by design? A well-planned Morning Opportunity Meeting will uncover the potential daily opportunities on which you can act.

How do you know if your M.O.M. is effective? The true test is if you consistently produce MORE than you had scheduled at the beginning of the day. If so, you know that you identified the opportunities and acted accordingly.

So, say good-bye to the Morning Huddle, and say hello to M.O.M., your new Morning Opportunity Meeting. It will transform your day and your productivity.

* For tips on designing an effective “New Patient Relationship Form” contact the Total Patient Service Institute at 1-877-399-8677 or