Creating a clear vision

What is the difference between an organisation’s mission and its vision? When asked this, many business professionals, including dentists, find it hard to come up with an answer.

Some believe that mission and vision are interchangeable terms. However, the distinction between the two is quite pronounced. A mission is what you want the dental practice to be like on a day-to-day basis and focuses mainly on current operations. A vision is how you see the business in the future. The long-term success of the practice largely depends on the dentist articulating a distinct vision for the team.

Vision is everything. It is the source of professional motivation – the reason you go to the office each morning. It sets out where you want the practice to be in the future and serves as the foundation for setting goals to get you there. However, achieving a vision isn’t accomplished in a fortnight. It requires short-term targets that, once completed, move the project closer to fruition.

Ideas and targets find life in a vision statement, which should contain clearly written information describing where the practice is going. The length can vary, but a multi-page account is often detrimental because it will be difficult for both the dentist and staff to understand and achieve. Developing a vision statement involves the following four stages:

• Identify practice milestones. Over the past 10-to-20 years, the pace of dental practices has dramatically increased, thus limiting the time dentists have to carry out management and leadership roles. To enhance the vision statement, dentists should list the most important achievements they wish to see in the long term. Examples may include expanding the cosmetic practice, increasing fees, excellent customer service, or having the best reputation in the community. At this initial stage, dentists are welcomed to write as many words or phrases as desirable.

• Prioritise and edit. Upon reflection and clarification, you can trim the list down to four-to-six key words or phrases. These are the items that have the greatest impact on the business over a specific period of time. Entries removed from the list are not wrong. They are taken away simply because the practice can only accomplish so much over time.

• Outline objectives. Write a paragraph that gives details about each word or phrase, outlining the specific practice objectives. Sentences may say something like: ‘The team will build a cosmetic dental practice where cosmetic services will contribute more than 50% of annual gross collections,’ or ‘The practice will establish a greater reputation in the community as the premier dental practice.’

• Refine the language. Ask colleagues, advisors and friends to review the statement and comment on it. Doing so can elicit valuable feedback, which allows the opportunity to refine the terminology. This final stage is not about evaluating whether the vision is right or wrong. Instead, it is a process designed to gain fresh and objective viewpoints regarding the statement.

Your vision is not an abstract concept. It is committed to paper and becomes the practice’s statement. To be an effective leader, you must share that vision with the dental team. A powerful vision that is constantly reinforced by the dentist contributes greatly to the development of a high-powered workforce. Your staff will become active participants in building the business and achieving all of your goals.

The long-term development of your practice is guided by your future plans. After a thoughtful process of creating and refining your vision statement, it will establish clear goals and help your practice move closer to your vision.

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