• Jackie Schletter

Round Out Your Organizational Chart

When you created your organizational chart (hint: if you don't have one, start now), it most likely had a top to bottom feel. You started with your practice owner sitting in a box at the top of the page, then a line led downwards to a manager or a head tech in another box, then maybe down to the head receptionist, and so on.

"Flattening" out an organization is not a new concept, but one gaining hold as we learn better how to create successful teams. Frankly, I don't think a top-down ladder style diagram screams team! I am more of a "Round Table" thinker, and here is why.

Ladder style cultures can promote an "I can't make that decision" or an "I'll have to check with my manager" response to clients when common sense choices or decisions need to be made. A top down culture promotes the thought that there are subordinates and underlings - two words I've heard leaders in industry organizations use and have seen in print in veterinary publications. Top down cultures talk about empowerment - implying that being a good decision maker is bestowed upon someone. I cringe every time I see verbiage like this because I know it is being put into practice and weakening a veterinary hospital's potential.

As we think of the veterinary team simply as a group of individuals bringing a wide variety of skill levels to the hospital's table to serve clients and their pets, is any team member more important than another? In my opinion the answer is no. In a round table practice the entire team answers to each other, looking left, right, forward and behind rather than just up when it is time to make a decision.

I have seen time and again the natural hierarchy that seems to place technicians with years of experience in an authoritative position "over" the front desk team and then of course the kennel staff seems fair game to be bossed around by anyone. So many teams mistakenly fall into a pit of working against each other rather than towards a common purpose. The tech team thinks the client care team doesn't get it and vice versa. A more rounded vision of staff organization can help the team see each other differently.

Try drawing up an organizational chart as a wheel with the clients/pets at the center 'hub'. Around that center of those we serve are the team member names, including the DVM's, each in their own circle. No one circle is bigger than another, though of course the level of responsibility a team member has may be greater than another. This wheel rather than ladder concept is your first step to a 'self governing' culture and informing staff members that the practice does not work "top down". All members of the team are equally important and therefore equally accountable.

To step forward, each individual that has chosen to work within the practice must do the following to ensure personal and professional growth:

*Believe in the values set forth by leadership and reiterated in the policy handbook

*Make decisions and behave according to those values

*Respect the humanity of colleagues and clients.

*Strive every day to find new ways to excel in their position

When your team sees each other as equal contributors in varying practice disciplines your ship has begun to sail in the right direction. Rather than looking to a top down chart, a practice can work to employ process and protocol in a shared, or self-governing manner that will drive good decision making behaviors and assist staff in knowing who to consult with when resolution or problem solving is needed.

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