Standardize Dental Business Systems the Toyota Way Defining your long-term philosophy

James V. Anderson, DMD, Founder and CEO
James V. Anderson, DMD, Founder and CEO
eAssist Dental Solutions

What are the 14 Principles of the Toyota Way of operational excellence and how can these principles be applied to the improvement and efficiency of our dental practices?

Principle #1 – Base your management decision on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.
Principle #2 – Create a continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface.
Principle #3 – Use ‘pull’ systems to avoid overproduction
Principle #4 – Level out the workload
Principle #5 – Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time
Principle #6 – Standardized tasks and processes are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment
Principle #7- Use visual controls so no problems are hidden
Principle #8 - Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and process
Principle #9 – Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy and teach it to others
Principle #10 – Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy
Principle #11 – Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve
Principle #12 – Go and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation
Principle #13 – Make decision slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options, implement decisions rapidly
Principle #14 – Become a learning organization through relentless reflection and continuous improvement

“Standardization Is the Basis for Continuous Improvement and Quality”

Jeffrey K. Liker, The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer

This book is a blueprint of Toyota’s management philosophy .  It provides the specific tools and methods that can help you become the best in your industry on cost, quality and service.  The Toyota Way is a lesson, vision, and inspiration for any organization including dentistry that wants to be successful long term.  I highly recommend that you take the time to read this book or get the audible version.

Toyota cars are renowned for their quality and reliability.  When you purchase a Toyota, you know you are going to have a vehicle that will give you years of stable, dependable service.  Isn’t that a principle that you want to give your patients also?  That you can be relied on for quality care in a stable and safe environment for many years?  As broad a thinking as this may seem to be, after all, cars are cars and people are people,  dental procedures/products, like automobiles, are created with the  thoughts on operational efficiency.  And along with operational efficiency you need to be constantly improving and innovating to stay ahead of the competition and avoid becoming obsolete.  To begin our journey let’s start with the first principle in the Toyota Way philosophy.

Principle 1:  Long-term Philosophy
It is vital to base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short- term financial goals.   Dentists in private practice understand the principle of creating a great practice where patients come in gladly and want to stay for years continuously improving and buying services along the way. As dental providers, we encourage our patients daily to achieve the best health possible by offering solutions to care.  Building relationships with your patients involves thinking of the long-term and that each encounter builds on that relationship.  What are their goals for health five years from now?  Where does the practice fit into this picture?

A meaningful, purposeful existence—it is something we all cherish and strive to create. It has been said that life is for learning, loving, and leaving a legacy. We dentists spend an extraordinarily portion of our days and hours focused on our dental profession of providing services. Continually learning and building our clinical skills so we can provide the highest quality care possible, hoping this will permit us to be able to acknowledge that we have lived with a “larger sense of purpose,” (bigger than making money) and that we are leaving a legacy of empathy and excellence.  How many of us are really doing what we want to create this “larger sense of purpose”?  

What exactly happens in a dental practice that creates “long term philosophy”?  In a dental practice as in any other business, the patient/customer makes a “first impression” judgment with each contact they have with your practice.  That judgement is a deciding factor as to whether you will ever see that patient again.  If you are just concerned with what you are charging and collecting that day, you are not thinking with a long-term philosophy.  Creating value for your patients, society and the economy should be foremost on you mind.  Say your patient is late and now the schedule is thrown off.  Is the focus on the schedule or the fact that there is a patient/customer standing before you that is there for a service?
If you turn the patient away or reschedule for another day, have you helped build your long term relationship with this patient?  Is it possible that you could look at your systems and create a way to see that patient within the day?  This would show that you value the patient and the relationship you are establishing.  This is not encouraging the patient to be late in the future because you will explain to the patient what you are providing in services and why having the valuable time to spend with them is important to the success of their treatment.

If you would like additional help, email Dr. Anderson at