As Originally Published in Dentistry IQ on February 9th, 2021.

Here is the problem with the idea of buying an operations manual “off the shelf”: Every office is different. Every business does things differently. Each task is done specifically the way that particular owner or manager wants it done to reflect their office’s goals. The way one person in a role does something in one office can be very different from the way a person in the same role completes the same task in another dental office. If you were to buy an “off the shelf” how-to manual, it would either be vague enough for every office consideration to fit (i.e., very generic) or it would be too specific and not in line with what each particular office does, making it wrong or impossible to use. The other problem with operations manuals is that once they are written, things change. The way tasks are done changes, people and flow changes, software changes, etc., and what was written becomes outdated. If the manual is not updated along with the changes, it becomes obsolete. Team members will stop referring to it because it’s no longer accurate. It will become a book that sits on a shelf collecting dust.

The problem with “off the shelf” office manuals is every office is different.

As an office manager, I would love an “off the shelf” operations manual, but I don’t think that will ever be a viable option. Instead, I recommend the next best thing (which is not fun, but doable): Write your operations manual in-house. That is not usually the answer people want to hear from me, but it is reality.

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