A wholearchy's constitution: Four statements set the tone for operations in a dental office

Aug. 23, 2016
Dorothy Garlough's column expand on the idea of creating a new modus operandi for teams within the dental office.

By Dorothy Garlough, RDH, MPA

My previous column expanded on the idea of creating a new modus operandi for teams within the dental office. This model, inspired by Dr. Janusz Korczak, also known as the "father of children's rights," is what I refer to as a "wholearchy" or a republic of team. The foundation of this system is person centered, looking at all members of the staff-not only as "whole persons" as was described in last month's article, but also as citizens-contributing to the good of the whole.

The cornerstone of a wholearchical system is respect. Recognizing that other team members have equal value and equal say unites a team in a powerful way. The natural outcropping of a person-centered team is the delivery of person-centered dentistry. Patients glean the benefits of being cared for by people who are members of a republic of team.

As with any republic, the founding guidance is based upon its constitution (the fundamental principles of which the organization is governed). An office's constitution is the navigational system by which disruptive storms are traversed, defining decisions made, and future goals created. It is the beacon of light by which to align day-to-day operations.

Such a document begins with a preamble that outlines the rights and expectations of those within the republic. Although measuring productivity in the dental office is important and a dashboard to see if the office is meeting its financial goals, it is not person centered; i.e., looking at how to be a citizen within a republic of team. Creating a wholearchy sees the development of an office constitution to address this gap.

Four statements comprise a person-centered constitution.

The purpose statement-The purpose statement is a written document offering guidance on what you do, why you are here, what your objectives are, and what your "service promise" is from your patients' perspective. A beautiful example of a brilliant purpose statement is the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. This historic document's preamble answers all the above criteria and in a most inspiring way. It is the power of a united purpose that promoted the successful formation of the United States of America. Such a united purpose will also promote the formation of a dynamic and cohesive team.

Creating a purpose statement for the office involves a three-way relationship among each team member's personal purpose in life, the office purpose, and the role the person plays at work that supports both his or her personal and professional intention. Looking at individual purposes and how your position in the dental office supports your purpose, along with defining the office purpose, nurtures a holistic alignment. Team members have meaningful reasons for showing up at work, bringing their best to the workplace and the other citizens of the team. The result is mutually beneficial to individual team members, the office, and society.

The values statement-The mindful wholearchical leader understands that a collectively created constitution speaks to all of its citizens. This document inspires them to uphold and deliver on the team's top values (the important and lasting beliefs or ideals shared by all team members). Like the laser in the operatory, when focused, it creates a healthy environment by influencing behavior and attitude.

But a word is just a word until it is defined. Does everyone on the team know what it means, for example, to uphold integrity within the workplace? You might be surprised at the different meanings each individual has! Taking the time for every team member to express what the values mean to him or her will lead to a collective definition of what it means for the team. Structure each value around specific behaviors by jointly naming five different scenarios that demonstrate the delivery of this value in the office. This will draw a clear picture of what the value looks like that everyone can understand.

The beauty of this exercise is that it holds everyone accountable to the constitution in every daily interaction. There is no room for misaligned values. Your organizational constitution describes the specific behaviors required for values alignment as well as the performance expectations that will keep the office successful.

A clear values statement answers the "how" to align as a person-centered team. How will people be treated as business activities happen? How will the patient be treated? How will staff treat one another? How will you defuse and address challenges? How will you plan for the future? Aligning to the office's values will direct the delivery of action.

The strategic statement-The person-centered constitution develops strategies and processes (articles or bylaws) to uphold its values. These are the tools used to help govern the citizens. What tools or processes do you use when you need to problem-solve, generate new thinking, or implement new initiatives? What procedure do you follow when you are confused about requests or demands, when you have upsets, injuries, or misunderstanding within the team? What process do you follow to navigate through complaints and challenges presented by patients? What means do you use to establish mentoring, coaching, and accountability? The strategic statement offers clear guidelines as to why decisions are made. Formalizing your strategy statement and using it as a guide will offer an understanding of whether or not decisions support the office's values.

Goal statement-Goals are typically better understood throughout an organization than the business strategy. Discussions occur regularly and there is tangible monitoring of goals. Making expectations clear and measuring them will keep the energy alive and let you know if you are gaining ground, losing ground, or just on a merry-go-round.

In addition to the needed financial goals, the wholearchy constitution will have goals to advance teams professionally as well as holistically. What are the goals for continuing education individually and collectively? What might be a social cause that your team could unite around to support? What personal development might the office support in an individual team member with the understanding that this reinforced skill could enhance the entire office? How do you promote fulfilling relationships between team members? How can you seed "different thinking," and how do you create an atmosphere of calm within the team?

Office goals are formalized in your organizational constitution and describe the results expected within the office in the coming performance period. It is important to be realistic about goal setting. You want to elevate and motivate the team without setting unachievable goals. This focal point in the constitution will be the juice that keeps the team motivated.

Creating a wholearchical constitution will be the canvas for the team to create its future. It will spur emotions that drive the team to action in creating tomorrow today. Like the US constitution, which is said to have been written by the "enlightened ones," your constitution will enlighten and inspire everyone around a united cause-to bring success to the office while bringing success to its citizens. It puts a spotlight on values and behaviors and offers guidance on how to work from that picture every day. It gives team members' roles meaning and clarity, building deep connections individually, to the team, and to society. It recognizes that every citizen of the republic of team brings value to the table, and it creates the means for them to be heard.

What would the "father of children's rights" think about my wholearchy model? I think he would be curious to see how a person-centered team is further developed. Promoting mindful leadership and developing strategies to uphold team values is the goal of this column over the next months. One thing is for sure, Janusz Korczak's influence did not perish with his death, and I, for one, am grateful for that! RDH

Dorothy Garlough, RDH, MPA, is an innovation architect, facilitating strategy sessions and forums to orchestrate change within dentistry. As an international speaker and writer, Dorothy trains others to broaden their skill-set to include creativity, collaborative innovation, and forward thinking. She recognizes that engagement is the outcome when the mechanisms are put in place to drive new innovations. Connect with her at [email protected] or visit engagingteams.com.