How to make structured decisions within your dental practice

The Force Field Analysis is a simple yet powerful decision-making tool that can help you understand the relative pros and cons affecting a particular idea or project decision, and what actions you should take as a result of that decision.

It was originally created by Kurt Lewin in the 1940s. It has become widely used helping businesses to make better-informed decisions about their future strategy.

You use the tool by listing all of the factors (forces) for and against your decision and then allocate a weighting score against each factor, based on its influence. Add up the scores for and against the change to get an understanding of how easy or difficult it will be to achieve.

Once you have a better understanding of the forces affecting your decision, you can then look to:

  • Strengthen the forces that support the change
  • Manage or mitigate the forces against the change.

How to do it

To carry out a Force Field Analysis, use a blank sheet of paper or a flip chart.

Draw a line down the middle of the page and at the top put a brief description of the project. Then list the positive forces on the left, and the restraining forces on the right.

As you do this, consider the different elements that might affect the outcome of the project:

  • What are the business benefits of the change?
  • Do you have the skills and resources required?
  • How easy will it be to make the change?
  • What costs might be involved?
  • Would you have the support of your team?
  • What other risks might be involved?

For example

Imagine you’re an NHS practice and you’re considering the move to become fully private. Your Force Field Analysis might look a bit like the image above.

Scores in this example are slightly in favour of going ahead with the transition, but there are lots of barriers to reduce for you to feel more confident with the move. So, the question is, what actions can you take to address the restraining forces?

In this instance, you might look at the following:

  • Looking at local demographics to see if your customer base is more or less inclined to pay for treatment privately
  • Working with an experienced adviser (such as Practice Plan) who can help you work out how many patients you need to retain for the transition to be viable, and how you might introduce a membership plan into the practice
  • Holding team meetings to explain in more detail, the benefits of going private and addressing any team concerns
  • Getting specialist advice on what would happen to your NHS pension in the event of you going fully private.

Undertaking these actions will reduce restraining forces and pave the way to go ahead with plans, or provide information confirming there are too many risks involved. Either way, you’ll be making an informed decision. 

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