Practice Management News and Views from around the World – August 2008

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Harry Potter and Teamwork, or, How To Tackle The Troll in Your Toilet

by Eric Garner

I’ve set some very unusual training exercises in my time… with some even more unusual results… but the one I’m going to tell you about in this article must go down as one of the oddest.

And it was really meant as a joke!

Let me explain.

I had been asked to run a week-long Teambuilding course for 7 senior managers of an accountancy business. Nothing unusual about that of course.

The thing was, the venue was a beautiful old hotel called The Manor, stuck miles from anywhere, and by the time I finalized my accommodation it was fully booked and I had to find rooms in the nearest town, some five miles away.

The delegates, however, all managed to find rooms at the Manor.

But the real reason why the course was memorable was the weather. On day 2 it started to snow. And all day on day 3.

Towards mid-afternoon, I decided to call it quits and head for home. The delegates looked a little forlorn as they faced the prospect of a night in.

“Never mind,” I said, as I hurriedly packed my equipment, “I’ll leave the video player and you can get in a good film,” adding with a smile as I disappeared through the door, “you can do a presentation on it in the morning.” And with that I left to battle with the elements.

Now the course I was running was an in-depth look at Teambuilding and Leadership. By the night in question, we’d covered some pretty interesting stuff: team selection; team roles; teamwork; team development; team leadership; and how to turn a losing team into a winning team.

Well, as luck had it, the weather lifted on day 4 and I arrived on time to move into our next session which was Team Meetings. But before I could start, the delegates all stood up, moved to the front of the room and invited me to sit down.

Tom, the most senior manager, then informed me: “To show you that we didn’t waste our time yesterday, we’d like to make a presentation based on the video we watched last night. Just like you asked. The video we watched was “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” and our presentation is called: “Teamwork and Harry Potter, or How To Remove The Troll From Your Toilet”

I then sat mesmerized and entertained as the 7 delegates proceeded to explain the key concepts of teamwork as illustrated in the film of Harry Potter. And to show you just how original they were, I’m going to present these concepts to you now… just as they were presented to me.

Oh, one thing before we start, that will help you get a flavour of the presentation. The team had somehow found… I wasn’t sure if it was made or bought… a wizard’s hat. And each presenter wore it in turn.

First up was Donna, who revealed a flipchart stating…

“1. A Mission Needs A Team… And A Team Needs A Mission”

Donna started by giving a brief summary of the Harry Potter story and explained that at the core of the film was a team on a mission. This was quite simply the defeat of the evil wizard Voldemoort, arch-enemy of Harry Potter and the wizard responsible for killing his parents.

Donna explained that Harry can’t defeat Voldemoort on his own. He needs a team to help him. And not just one team either.

In a series of concentric circles, Donna showed that Harry has the team of all the good wizards on his side. Next he has all the teachers at Hogwarts school rooting for him. Then the team that is his school house, Gryffendor. And finally, but most importantly, are the trio of Harry and his school chums, R Weasley and Hermione Grainger.

Knowing the Harry Potter story as I did, I was fascinated by Donna’s analysis.

She concluded by taking her wizard’s hat off and revealing a zig-zag scar on her forehead. “Harry ha a scar on his forehead,” she said, “and it’s a symbol of his mission, because it was given to him by Voldemoort. It’s a constant reminder of his life’s purpose.”

Donna then passed the wizard’s hat to Janet who put it on and turned over the next flipchart, which said…

“2. Selfless Sharing”

Janet posed a question: “What’s the one thing all the good teams do that the poor ones don’t?”

I thought as the only member of the audience that I ought to reply. So with the flipchart as a
clue, I suggested: “Share?”.

“Dead right!” Janet exclaimed. She then re-wound the video and first showed a clip of Harry’s life at his foster parents home where he is given next-to-nothing and made to sleep under the stairs… and next a clip of his first meeting with Ron on the Hogwarts’ Express on the way to school. Harry looks at the sweets trolley on the train and decides to buy the lot so that he can share them with Ron.

Janet illustrated the idea of sharing with a story.

“Three people were working on a medieval construction site. All were doing the same job but when each
was asked what they were doing, the replies all varied.

“Breaking rocks,” said the first.

“Earning a living,” said the second.

“Helping to build a cathedral,” said the third.”

Now it was at this point that I seriously began to wonder who was training who, but I just sat back and enjoyed the next turn, which was Jim.

Jim put on the wizard’s hat and said that the third concept of teamwork was…

“3. Does The Team Fit?”

Jim explained that no team has any real chance of success unless it has the right mix of people in it. This is the perennial problem of sports’ coaches, theatre impresarios and business leaders.

At first glance, Harry, Ron and Hermione aren’t exactly team-formation stuff. Ron’s not that bright, while Hermione positively sparkles. And Harry? Well, Harry’s a bit non-descript. He sort of goes along with things in an accepting way.

But, like all strong teams, they hit it off. They complement each other like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

To underline this concept of teamwork, Jim had written the following definition of a team out on a flipchart. It comes from B. Babington Smith: “A team is a group in which the skills of each member fit in with those of others, as — to take a very mechanical and static analogy — in a jigsaw puzzle, pieces fit together without distortion and together
produce some overall pattern.”

And for added effect, Jim had drawn puzzle pieces around the chart. I thought his definition of the team was spot on.

“4. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse, Until You Get It Right”

“Now you’re probably wondering about that strange title back at the beginning,” Fiona said, “… the bit about the troll in the toilet.”

Well, as it happened, I was. It certainly had captured my attention and now all was to be revealed.

“The troll in the toilet is one of the tests that Harry and his friends face as they move towards their ultimate goal,” Fiona said. “How they perform on these tests determines how the team develops and whether they come unstuck and fall apart or survive and become stronger.”

I was itching at this point to jump out of my seat and remind the group of Tuckman’s stages of team development, most often known as…Forming, Norming, Storming, and Performing

However, before I could, Fiona beat me to it.

She gave several examples of the tests Harry’s team face, including the dangerous ball game of Quidditch in which Harry’s enemies try to kill him but in which Ron and Hermione manage to save him.

Oh, and the troll in the toilet? That’s another test that the team face when Harry’s enemies unleash a monster troll in the school toilets and nearly crush Hermione into the size of a loo roll. Again, it’s the team that save her.

By this point in the presentation, I was feeling a little guilty that, while I had sat in my snowbound hotel last night enjoying a drink in the bar, my delegates had taken me at my word and been working their socks off to create such an original presentation.

But none of them seemed to mind. In fact, they seemed to be relishing it, as they continued with Phil and…

“5. Teamwork Plain and Simple”

I have a sneaking suspicion that Phil might be after my job. His presentation was as good as anything I could have done.

Phil explained that the story of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was all about how the three schoolfriends work out that the philosopher’s stone, a medieval piece of alchemy that prolongs life indefinitely, has been hidden in the school and that Voldemoort is after it.

The friends work all this out through a clever piece of deduction aided and abetted by teamwork. And as Phil warmed to his theme, he listed some of the features of teamwork displayed by the team…

  • a positive can-do attitude
  • tireless energy in pursuit of their goals
  • bouncing back from setbacks
  • continuous learning
  • constant, open and honest communication
  • feedback to each other
  • commiserating when down and celebrating when up
  • a predominance of the 3 A’s of accepting, acknowledging and appreciating
  • building on each others’ ideas.

I glanced at my watch and Phil took the hint. Not that I wanted him to steal my thunder of course.

Phil wound up on teamwork and passed the hat to Angela who uncovered the next flipchart…

“6. Play To Your Strengths”

Angela explained that, unlike a group that may simply go on and on, a team usually exists for a specific purpose, or moment of truth.

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, this moment of truth comes when Harry, Ron and Hermione work out where the philosopher’s stone is hidden and know that they only have a short time to get it before Voldemoort does.

The team now face their crunch, the moment that all their previous work has been leading to. Angela
solemnly described it as follows:

“There can only be one state of mind as you approach any profound test: total concentration, a spirit
of togetherness and strength.”

But as Angela explained, the strength of the team comes from the strength of each individual in it.
So, as Harry, Ron and Hermione battle their way to reach the stone, each one plays a blinder. When they
are attacked by a jungle of suffocating weeds, Hermione manages to remember the spell that releases
them. When their way is barred by sword-wielding life-size chess pieces, Ron plays his best game
of chess ever. And when at last Harry comes face to face with Voldemoort, it’s his unique courage
that defeats the evil wizard.

And for Angela that summed up teamwork: outstanding individual performance leading to superior team performance.

Well, that seemed like a high point to end the presentation on, but, no, there was one more speaker to go and that was Tom. And Tom’s short presentation spoke volumes. He called it…

“7. Loyalty To The Team Before Loyalty To Self”

Tom explained that the Harry Potter film doesn’t end with Harry, Ron and Hermione’s defeat of Voldemoort.

Even though Harry and his chums are heroes, they’re not the ones who make the difference. The difference belongs to Neville Longbottom.

As Tom explained, Neville is one of the less noticeable members of Gryffendor house. Neville believes that the threesome’s escapades will cost Gryffendor points in the race for the top house trophy and he bars their way in an attempt to stop them. So the three reluctantly put a suspended animation spell on Neville.

In the event, Gryffendor do not have enough points when the year’s totals are added up… until headmaster Albus Dumbledore recognizes Neville’s loyalty to the house and awards him the points needed for Gryffendor to win.

Which proves you don’t have to be a hero to succeed… or someone with special gifts… or unique insight. But you do have to love your team enough to put it before your friends and even yourself.

And that concluded the presentation. I burst into spontaneous applause. What a fabulous and unexpected response to a night in! And what a brilliant example of teamwork!

I like to think that this exercise will remain in the memory of the team for a very long time, just as it has in mine.

Chances are that none of them will ever be able to watch a Harry Potter film or read a Harry Potter book again without remembering it!

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Practice-Management Software Update – Vendors turn out new versions with enhanced features

by Lori Luechtefeld – originally published in the Veterinary News Network

Practice-management software vendors are continually upgrading and refining their systems’ functions and features. Here are some of the latest releases and upgrades.

  • In March, ImproMed Inc. released Infinity v4.3. In addition to other enhanced features and interfaces, the release includes X-Charge integrated credit card processing and VSurv, a Web-based client satisfaction survey service provided by Animal Care Technologies.
  • In July 2007, Idexx Computer Systems released its latest information management system technology for veterinary practices, Idexx Cornerstone 7.1. Powered by Idexx’s SmartLink technology, Cornerstone 7.1 offers simple and seamless electronic connections with other Idexx products and services. The new version gives practitioners and practice staff an advanced ability to track patient status with a new electronic whiteboard. It also features a new user-friendly interface and advanced bar-coding
  • Within the past year, the AVImark practice-management system by McAllister Software System has added an electronic whiteboard tool, an electronic dental charting function, pet report card capabilities, integration with in-house lab equipment, enhanced functionality of importing reference lab reports, integrated credit card processing and DICOM imaging capability.
  • Butler Animal Health Supply will debut new practice-management software packages in July. The newest features include biometric log-in and integrated laboratory and radiology information systems.
  • Clinic-Ware Dot Com Ltd, based in Hong Kong, began developing its practice-management system in 2006. The product was launched in May 2007 and currently has a user base of more than 50 clinics.
  • The latest version of Alis-Vet practice-management software, produced by Informavet Inc., has several new features, including an improved Smart List system with problem-specific subjectives and plans, full laboratory module integration, bulk e-mail capabilities, SOAP medical record scripting templates, new appointment analysis based on monthly minutes, HomeAgain microchip ID exports added to VetInsite and VetGate exports, X-Charge credit card implementation and custom screen colors.
  • The latest update of Vetech Software Services Inc.’s practice-management software for small-animal practices will ship very shortly. Its new features will include an automatic back-up scheduler, which will allow the clinic to automatically back up its practice management data daily or multiple times per day with no interaction. The system will also support multiple practices or departments on a single server computer. Vetech also produces a software system designed specifically for equine and large-animal practices.
  • In March 2007, Advance Micro Systems launched V-Tech Platinum, an all-inclusive practice-management software that is billed out for a monthly fee. The system–which includes inventory control, whiteboard, integrated credit card processing and integrated digital radiography–is updated six times a year and includes 24-hour tech support.
  • Sneakers Software Inc., maker of the DVMax veterinary practice-management software system, has spent the past 10 years focusing on building a paperless environment through its software. Most recently, the company built an interface for digital radiography.
  • Intravet, a division of Webster Veterinary Supply, is releasing the newest update of its practice management software this summer. The update will include features that aid in patient flow and paperless charting. The company will integrate the system with laboratory requisition forms as well as digital interfaces with several computed radiography and digital radiography systems. The system will also feature an integrated order entry system with Webster’s eMagine software.
  • Animal Intelligence Software Inc.’s newest product, AITreatment Sheet, is a full-featured electronic whiteboard and treatment sheet. It fully integrates treatments and orders into the medical record, allows standardization and customization, and links with billing functions to ensure reduction of missed charges and double entry. The real-time AITreatment Sheet can be printed or projected onto a screen or whiteboard.
  • RxWorks releases two new versions of its practice management software each year. Its recent enhancements include the RxWorks DICOM platform, which enables clinics to manage all their digital images on a single platform. Another enhancement, the HealthCare Manager, is designed to help veterinarians boost client compliance according to their standards of care. In addition, the Performance Pack feature provides tools to help veterinarians create and maintain a fee structure
    reflecting the true cost of veterinary products and services.
  • The VetNetSoft veterinary software system includes several interactive, integrated modules. All medical records, including videos and images for each patient, are automatically uploaded to each patient’s online medical record with patient-specific instructions and educational materials on specific problems

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Carin Smith DVM announces the publication of her new book

Carin Smiths new book — Team Satisfaction Pays: Organisational Development for Practice Success is now available through AAHA or you can click here to purchase directly from the author

Carin says that many veterinary hospital leaders know ‘what’ to do but that there is often a ‘knowing-doing’gap. ‘Team Satisfaction Pays’ takes up where other books leave off — it includes the ‘how to’ component, team exercises in every chapter and incorporates a CD with Word and pdf files so that the material can be customised for your own practice

You can click here to visit Carin Smiths website

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Are you designing your destiny?

by Thomas E. Catanzaro

One of the most often-used consultation summaries, in my experience, comes from the comments on creating our own day. In response to the numerous uses, the following is the summary of those discussions.

I start my day by going to bed with the three most important and unresolved issues for tomorrow in my mind, and allow my subconscious to work on them overnight.

When I wake up in the morning, those three issues are the first items addressed, and are usually resolved with some degree of clarity. Then, I consciously create my day the way I want it to happen.

Because my mind is examining all the things that I need to get done, it takes me a little bit to settle down and get to the point where I’m actually intentionally creating my day. Here are the basi concepts of this process.

When I create my day, little things start to happen that are so unexplainable. I know that they are the process or the result of my creation. And the more I do that, the more I build a neural net in my brain that I accept it’s possible. It gives me the power and the incentive to do it again the next day.

So, if we’re consciously designing our destiny, and if we’re consciously, from a spiritual and neural standpoint, throwing in the commitment that our thoughts can impact our reality and our life, then we can create a pact with ourselves through conscious affirmation.

In the early days of my career, I was often surprised that my mind-set controlled the ability to be able to experience these new and wondrous things, yet I had no doubt that it came from the “planning sequence.” I live my life thinking about being a caring person, or about the glory and power of being a healthcare professional, or the miracle of the unconditional love of the human-animal bond.

It’s called positive mental attitude (PMA), and it works, and it works wonders, especially in a practice day where there are so many variables.

National Pet Wellness Month (NPWM), sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association and Fort Dodge Animal Health has a “think twice” theme in its public-awareness program. The theme centers on the fact that animals age faster than their owners, therefore professional veterinary consultations at least twice a year is not out of the question.

Concurrently, most pet owners understand they personally need an over-40 health/wellness surveillance plan. The same rationale can easily be applied to their companion animals. This makes your mental mindset a critical aspect of capturing the hearts and minds of these clients coming through your front door.

The commitment to a new mission focus requires daily planning; especially if you embrace the emerging concept that “client-centered patient advocacy to enhance the quality and duration of an animal’s life” is in the operational mission focus of our team-based healthcare delivery programs.

You can click here to see other articles by Tom Catanzaro in DVM360 news magazine online

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Australian Veterinary Business Association

I have recently received a note from Jane Bindloss who tells me that the newly formed AVBA (the Australian Veterinary Business Association) has recently launched its website.

Jane was a very welcome participant in the recent Veterinary Business Briefing Webinar on the management role in practice and she tells me that she has recently been delivering a number of seminars around Australia entitled ‘Who’s Running the Show Anyway’

The AVBA intends to extend its reach to encompass practice managers who may or may not have a veterinary background and Jane says that in Australia there is a real need to provide support services to them all in the form of networking, education and materials.

The AVBA intends for this website to be the premier Australian online resource for veterinary practice management advice, information and support.

To lead veterinary businesses to success by:

  • Improving their prosperity;
  • Achieving optimal outcomes for animals, clients, employees and business owners;
  • Being the primary business resource;
  • Providing relevant educational opportunities;
  • Fostering mutually beneficial relationships both for, and within, the veterinary industry.

Membership of the AVBA is open to anyone who is interested in veterinary practice management.

You can click here to visit the AVBA website

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Latest and most cost-effective practice management systems at SPVS IT Day

The Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) is holding a one-day workshop with leading software providers to unveil the latest and most cost-effective practice management systems currently on the market.

The one-day workshop, which takes place on Friday 24 October 2008 at The Holiday Inn in Coventr will seek to provide practising vets and practice managers with the information they need to make more informed choices when choosing software.

The workshop will consist of seminars on the options available to suit varying budgets, current and future trends in practice management software and how to secure the most competitive deals as well as one-to-one advice. There will also be in-depth demonstrations of the latest software and most reliable and secure software available.

Organiser Nick Lloyd explained: “As an organisation representing thousands of vets up and down the country, we are delighted to host this event which will present the most efficient and cost-effective practice management systems on the market.

He added: “Practitioners want a system that is reliable, fast and secure and that is workable within their own budgets and anyone from novice to advanced user will benefit from this informative workshop. There are a variety of systems to compare and contrast on the day which will also provide the ideal opportunity to ask specific questions about the features and functionality of specific systems.

Delegates will also have the opportunity to try out the systems using mock client notes and case studies.”

Exhibitors include Ashdown Veterinary Services, AT Systems Ltd, Jupiter Systems Ltd, Lawler Developments Ltd, Midshire Veterinary Systems, National Veterinary Services, Syscap, Verifac, Vet One and Vet Solutions.

The event, which is now in its fourth year, costs £110 for SPVS and Veterinary Practice Management Association (VPMA) members while non SPVS and VPMA members will be charged £120. Second delegates from the same practice can attend at the discounted rate of £65. All prices are inclusive of VAT.

This workshop is very popular so anyone interested in attending is advised to book their place as soon as possible.

Discounts are available for anyone booking a place on the SPVS Team Management Systems (TMS) workshop in association with VPMS which takes place the day before (23 October) at the same venue.

Delegates at this event will be invited to explore two key management topics in a hands-on environment with group working and feedback sessions.

For further information on either event and to book your place contact SPVS office on 01926 410454 or click here to send an e.mail to the SPVS office

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