Staff Management

How I Gained “Traction” to Spur 30% Year-Over-Year Practice Growth

Dr. Golson (back row, fourth from right as you’re looking at the photo) and his staff. Dr. Golson says the principles learned in “Traction” have helped put his practice on a more profitable trajectory.

By Larry Golson, OD

Oct. 20, 2021

Juggling effective practice management while providing quality eyecare can be a lofty challenge. It’s been said that systems run businesses and people run systems.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if there was a way to consistently run both, so you could focus on what’s most important?

I’ve been searching for years, and  “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business,” by Gino Wickman, details an Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) that delivers just that, for both my practice, and those which I serve as a consultant and coach.

Implemented in our practice in 2019, “Traction” has been such a success that even with the two-month shutdown in 2020, our office maintained the same amount of revenue in 2020 compared to 2019. I attribute this, as well as the following additional accomplishments, directly to our use of “Traction’s” EOS: 33 percent revenue growth in 2021 over last year, more effective prioritization/solving of issues and disseminating our practice’s 10-Year Target, Three-Year Picture and a One-Year Plan. In short, we’ve benefited financially and added much-needed clarity for everyone in our practice, including me.

In her book, “Dare to Lead,” BrenĂ© Brown concludes that “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” When so many woes in our practices are caused by a lack of clarity, there’s no question that this EOS is worth strong consideration in your practice.

Accountability Chart
It’s often confusing in any organization, including a healthcare practice, which team member to go to for which business or interpersonal need. In my practice, an Accountability Chart has clarified who should be doing what and who reports to whom. This added clarity results in smoothness and efficiency of our workflow every day. The Accountability Chart’s structure is as follows.

Imagine a design akin to a family tree, which, in this case, has a single box at the top of the chart for the practice’s “Visionary.” In the case of an eyecare practice, the Visionary is the owner. This is the person who is tasked with setting the long-term vision of the business. Next, below the Visionary, is the box for the “Integrator.” In a practice, the Integrator is usually the lead administrator or office/practice manager. This the person who is responsible for figuring out how to make the Visionary’s long-term plans a reality, along with overseeing the details of day-to-day operations.

If your practice is large enough for middle management, below the Integrator the line of command branches out into boxes with the names of the department leads within the practice, such as the Optical, Operational and Financial leads. They are the ones who report to the Integrator to set and reach the goals that will enable the practice to go where the Visionary envisions. The rest of the team members would be placed in the chart in boxes below the department leads according to where in the practice they work.

The other main function of the Accountability Chart is to specify the major functions of each team member within the practice. Since this illustrates what roles each person is accountable for, it reduces the chance of one employee stepping on another employee’s toes in handling daily tasks and expedites the completion of those tasks. No one must wonder now which colleague should be looked to when a job needs to get done. Hence, once again, added clarity.

Prior to creating our Accountability Chart, due to habits and a lack of clarity, team members would come to me for any question that arose. For example, I had one employee who would always come to me when requesting time off.

Once we had our chart, I began to ask her, “Who on the Accountability Chart handles daily operational tasks like approving time off?” She would then quickly realize that she should have directed her query to the Integrator. How many times are you answering team member questions that should be directed elsewhere? The Accountability Chart removes that obstacle as it clarifies who to go to for what.

Vision Traction Organizer
The job of the Visionary is to look beyond the short-term to create a long-term plan. Successfully doing that requires organization in the practice via setting goals. Wickman recommends use of what he calls a “Vision Traction Organizer” or V/TO.

This is a document that starts with defining the Purpose of “why” our practice exists and moves on to specify the organization’s five core values (competence, commitment to excellence, candid team collaboration, innovation and accountability). It then required us to clarify who our target list is for future marketing efforts.

The V/TO then helped us specify a 10-Year Target (i.e. where the Visionary sees the practice in 10 years), a Three-Year Picture and a One-Year Plan. It breaks down the One-Year Plan further into “rocks,” which are 90-day goals to accomplish each quarter. In our practice, we have 3-7 “rocks” for each quarter of the year to help us accomplish our One-Year Plan. For example, in the third quarter of 2021, one of our rocks was to edit and update our employee handbook.

Drilling down further, we have weekly “L10 meetings” to assess how close we are to achieving the rocks. Each person leaves these weekly L10 meetings with a list of “To Do’s,” which create bite-size weekly tasks to help us accomplish our Rocks before the quarter ends.

Setting specific short-term goals enables you to know at any point in time where the focus of the practice team should be. It allows us to figure out how to best prioritize before tackling other things. We are now much more organized and more focused on what’s most important at a given time and what objectives need to wait until another time. When you know the tasks to focus on as a group at the current moment you are more likely to make steady progress in meeting all your practice goals without getting sidetracked.

People Analyzer Tool
Hiring the right people, and then positioning them into the right “seats on the bus,” can be challenging. We developed a system we call the “People Analyzer Tool,” which turned out to be exactly what we needed. This tool enables us to determine if a team member is performing well and is a good fit for the practice. It assures that all new hires can successfully get behind the practice owner’s long-term vision.

We use our practice’s five core values to assess performance. Ninety days after the new employee’s first day of work, the Department Lead and the Integrator evaluate how well the employee is aligning with each of our Core Values. If the employee receives a “+” for a core value, it means they are exhibiting that core value most of the time. A “+/-” means they are exhibiting the value some of the time and a “-” means they rarely exhibit the value. We point out examples of the employee’s work to illustrate why they received the mark we gave them.

We also have employees grade themselves for performance of each Value and discuss any discrepancy between the way they feel about their performance and the way the Department Lead and Integrator assessed performance on that Core Value. We assess a team member’s performance using the People Analyzer Tool each 90 days.

If needed, we create Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) to facilitate needed changes in the employee’s performance. Those plans include a 30-day timeline for achieving needed improvements. If an employee fails to make the specified improvements, we give them one more 30-day timeline after which we will let them go if the improvements have not been made. It usually is an amicable parting when that happens because the employee has been given ample warning of areas where they need to improve and has been given opportunities, with our help and guidance, to make those improvements, but failed to do so.

We want our whole team, including ourselves, to do the best work of our lives. We find people appreciate the clarity “Traction” provides and the opportunity to be part of a team successfully working toward a long-term practice vision.

There are more details to implementing “Traction,” so if the above article resonates with you, make the commitment now to read “Traction” with the leaders in your practice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help as implementing this system takes time and dedication. The rewards for your practice of doing so, however, are completely worth it!

Larry Golson, OD, is the owner of Envision Eyecare in Asheville, N.C. Dr. Golson also offers practice consulting as the president of HarmonEyes. To contact him: drg@myenvisioneyecare.com 

 

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