I met today for a coffee with a dentist that asked my assistance as he works to transform his practice. Our conversation today turned to the role and involvement of his team during this process. I believe strongly that it takes a team to create a practice; every aspect of a practice is a compilation of the people who create it. The difference between a cohesive high functioning team and one that just makes it through is whether their efforts are combining toward a common goal or focused in differing directions, often bumping up against one another. It’s the fundamental conversation of vision and mission.
Vision, is the “why” behind the practice, the foundation on which it is built and the destination towards which it is headed. When I use the word “vision” in reference to a dental practice it embodies a combination of these two definitions:
- a vivid mental image produced by the imagination.
- the stated aims and objectives of a business or other organization.
The vision, imagined future and objectives of the practice, are the creation of the dentist. An expression of the hopes, dreams and values held, informed by education, and colored by aspiration and circumstances. Vision is not a team exercise, although it is often influenced by key people in the dentist’s life. Vision is also, never stationary and grows and changes along with the person who is its’ creator.
Mission, on the other hand is, is by definition about the team and I believe created by the team. If we go to the dictionary again for a definition:
A specific task or duty assigned to a group of people.
In this case the task or duty they are assigned is to bring the vision of the dentist to fruition, have it become a reality. I believe that since it will take the entire team to accomplish, the entire team should have a voice in creating the mission. The mission is about how a team will function together, the way in which the vision is expressed on a day to day basis, and a blueprint that guides how we do our individual roles.
This morning we used the analogy of a car trip between Phoenix and Miami as we talked about the journey of transitioning a practice. The vision is deciding that Miami is the ultimate destination. If the dentist gets in the car with a team, and only he/she knows they are going to Miami, but often someone else on the team has to drive, it will be a long, frustrating, ineffective trip. On the other hand, if everyone on the team knows the vision (Miami), and it has even been programmed into the GPS, each person can take responsibility in getting there and step in when someone else is too tired to drive. Deciding how many hours to drive each day, what cities to stay overnight in, the driving schedule and what to eat on the way is the mission. If we each have a say in what the trip will look like, we enjoy it more, are more committed to it being successful and able to adapt when we get lost.
On the journey of your practice, do you know where you are headed and have you shared that with your team?
Barry Polansky says
Always necessary to start practice conversations with the foundational vision/mission discussion. Great job.
Recently I took the mission conversation to another level…The Promise. Mission statements can end up becoming flat…but promises are full bodied. They bring life to the mission…I make promises to my patients… Like I make promises to my wife and kids.
Hopefully I have lived my mission (which I proudly say, I stole from LD),
To help my patients keep their teeth for their whole lives,
In proper health, comfort, function and esthetics
And to do it appropriately according to their circumstances, objectives and temperament.
LD….what a wordsmith.
Carl B. Fitzsimmons, DDS says
Barry, it is hard to top that mission statement.
Dr Richard Casson says
Great site, blog and post, keep up the good work and thanks for sharing :-)
Mary Osborne says
Well said, Lee.
And if individuals on a team have a personal vision which matches, and even enhances, the doctor’s vision that’s the best of all worlds!