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a blog by Chris Barrow

Rocks, pebbles and sand

I still find myself amazed that stories I was telling 15 years ago are still relevant today. My first practice visit of 2012 yesterday, listening to a principal and team tell me how the appointment diary was a problem:

  1. crammed with names – emergencies, repairs, ortho adjustments

  2. Principal’s head fried as he multi-tasks from one dental procedure to another

  3. not enough time with new patients because “the next one is waiting”

  4. a back-log of treatment plans that the Principal hasn’t had time to write – and by the time he does he can’t remember which patient was which

  5. unable to fit in patients who want to proceed to treatment – because the book is rammed

As in 1996, so in 2012. Solution. Back to Stephen Covey’s “7 habits” and back to the story of the rocks, pebbles and sand in the jar. Covey used this as a metaphor for life:

  1. the sand is our daily to do list

  2. the pebbles are our medium term decisions – holidays, house moves, schools for the kids

  3. the rocks are our life-changing decisions – relationships, careers, finances

Fill the jar with sand and pebbles – the rocks don’t fit. Put the rocks in first and the pebbles and sand will fit in the gaps. I’m going to claim the fame for the first consultant to use this in UK dentistry (with attribution to Covey of course) – 1996.

  1. the sand are your “bitty” appointments – check ups, emergencies, repairs, adjustments

  2. the pebbles are your single unit treatments – fillings, crowns, RCTs

  3. the rocks are your multiple-unit treatments, bigger cases, more complex dentistry

The secret is to zone the appointment book into sessions for each. Yesterday, we sat down with the books for the Principal and his hygienist and zoned sessions for the complete week. Rules of the game:

  1. You can never put sand into a pebble or a rock session

  2. You can put pebbles into a rock or sand session if there is a genuine need

  3. You can put rocks into any session

The biggest “leap of faith” though – is the last rule.

  1. If a rock session is empty NEVER fill it with pebbles or sand

  2. Tell the clinician/team that the session is empty and that he/she needs to do some marketing or networking

It’s this last one that makes the difference – in the case of associates, tie that in with my “Christmas letter” published in the last ezine. My client will be implementing this ASAP and the team heaved a visible sigh of relief when that was agreed – not least the long-suffering TCO who has been waiting for the Principal to clear his back-log of treatment plans. The old stories are still the good ones.

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