Power of Three
ADA Leaders Support Member Success
ADA President Dr. Chuck Norman, President-elect Dr. Maxine Feinberg, and the Board of Trustees invited leaders across local, state and national levels to seek new ways to collaborate, and outlined this common vision in an open letter to fellow leaders. Dr. Norman’s message about how this initiative will move forward is in an ADA News message Working together for the benefit of all our members. Following is the Open Letter to volunteer and staff leaders.
An Open Letter from Leaders Throughout the ADA Organization: Supporting Member Success through the Power of Three
As leaders of the American Dental Association representing state and local societies as well as the national association, we are sharing with you a common commitment to work together in order to increase the value our members find in membership. This requires changes in how we work, and our goal is for the member to see, not these changes, but the results of our effort: compelling member value. This open letter explains our commitment to change, how we will move forward, and why.
It is our intention to act not as a fragmented collection of national, state and local associations. We are more than that. In reality, we are one organization, truly a family. And, together we will behave as a "system" because a system produces what its individual parts cannot produce alone. Whether you describe our relationship as a family, a system, a team or something else, we know that together we can achieve more member growth than we can individually.
See the leaders who have signed the Open Letter.
A New Way of Working Together
The national ADA Strategic Plan calls for the national association to "act in the best interest of the member, rather than the organization, when designing processes, programs and services." This is a principle shared by state and local associations as well. This is based on our belief that, from the member's perspective, it shouldn't matter who delivers the program or service but the quality and value received.
We all must recognize that there are some aspects of the programs and operations of each part of the ADA Organization that can probably be better handled by others. This includes work currently done by the national association.
Where the state or local associations are better positioned or able to provide a member service or program, they should take the lead in doing so — and the national association should support their efforts (in an ADA-client relationship) and facilitate the sharing of best practices across the ADA Organization to serve our common customer — the member. Conversely, when the national association is better positioned and able to provide a service or program, it should take the lead in doing so. Examples may include federal advocacy, the ADA Health Policy Resource Center, and, more generally, supporting state and local associations so that the member receives consistent value and service regardless of the size and capacity of the state and local associations.
We believe that working together in this way will better position all of us to succeed by:
- Leveraging our unique abilities to provide member value — a key driver for membership growth.
- Eliminating duplication of effort, and allowing other more effective levels of the system to focus on unique programs and services. This role clarification enables the redirection of finite resources to creating higher value, member loyalty and member satisfaction.
- Learning from each other's successes will be intentional and structured in a way that supports each level and maximizes performance from a member's perspective.
Creating Our Future Together
Together, we will create a new future focused on the member. In doing so, we share a common set of expectations:
- We are committed to less duplication of effort and more collaboration, bottom up and top down.
- We will understand and respect each other and our differences.
- We will refrain from making assumptions regarding what we know about each other.
- We will encourage our state associations to form effective partnerships with their local societies.
By sharing these expectations and nurturing this vision as we move forward, we will collectively accomplish our mission to help all our members succeed. Together, and only together, we will succeed in creating a more unified ADA Organization. Together, and only together, we will maximize the member's experience and loyalty we all seek.
We enthusiastically invite you to be an integral part of this renewed focus on the member who is in the center of our collective passion for results.
Our Shared Mission in a Shared (and New) Environment
The new mission of the American Dental Association is to "help all members succeed." Whether formal mission statements reflect this or not, helping all members succeed is the purpose of every state and local dental association as well. We share the belief that by supporting member success, we will drive growth in membership in the national, state and local associations — more members are good for everyone.
Membership will grow by delivering programs, services and advocacy for members through the Tripartite structure
by working together to maximize value and service regardless of where the experience occurs for our members. This is the "Power of Three." Collectively, these three parts of the Tripartite comprise "the ADA Organization:"
The ADA Organization is composed of the national, state and local associations, all focused on:
- Meeting member needs
- Solving member problems
- Exceeding member expectations
As a recent environmental scan performed by the national association explained:
Several important structural changes have occurred in the dental care sector in recent years.
- Utilization of dental care has declined among working age adults — particularly the young and the poor — a trend that is unrelated to the recent economic downturn.
- Dental benefits coverage for adults has steadily eroded during the past decade — again particularly for young and poor adults — even while Medicaid for children has expanded.
- More and more adults in all income groups are experiencing financial barriers to care.
- Average dentist net incomes declined considerably beginning in the mid-2000s and have not rebounded.
- Two out of five dentists indicate they are not busy enough and can see more patients; a significant increase over past years.
The coming years will bring considerable change to the dental profession, significant challenges, but also some new opportunities. Modeling results indicate that:
- Dental spending will remain flat in the coming decades. This 'new normal' is a stark departure from decades of historically robust growth in the dental economy.
- Dental benefits are likely to continue to erode for adults, which could negatively influence dental care utilization.
- There will be growing pressure to increase value and reduce costs from all payers — governments, employers, and individuals.
- There will be a shift toward value-based payments within both public and private plans and a new wave of health care consumerism among the population.
- Commercial dental plans will increasingly use more selective networks, demanding increased accountability through data and performance measures.
- Trend towards larger, consolidated multi-site practices will continue, driven by changes in practice patterns of new dentists, a drive for efficiency, and increased competition for patients.
- Pressure to reduce costs will also drive innovation, including exploring alternative care delivery models.
Members need us now, more than ever.
Our Shared Vision for the Power of Three
The ADA Organization will adapt and help our members succeed by offering them products and services of value to them regardless of where or how they practice, or where or how they engage the ADA Organization. To achieve this, we believe that each part of the ADA needs to work together in new ways to bring a shared vision for the Power of Three campaign into existence. Together, we seek to:
- Provide consistent and "best in class" member service and experience.
- Drive member loyalty beginning with admission to dental school and continuing throughout a dentist's career, regardless of the member's entry point to organized dentistry.
- Learn to create and deliver this member value in new ways, focusing our collaborative efforts to achieve measurable results.
This collaboration has a greater chance of creating a future in which our collective associations will be stronger and more successful in helping all members succeed and, as a result, more dentists will recognize a need to belong to our associations.
This vision is premised on shared beliefs:
- There is great, unique value in the local presence, knowledge and direct member relationships that the state and local associations provide.
- There is great, unique value in the broader perspective, knowledge and capacity that the national association brings to all states and local associations and members.
- How the work is divided among the national, state and local associations to deliver these programs and services should be based on which organization can best deliver the product or service and should be seamless to the member.
So How Will it Work?
We don't fully understand all the details yet. This represents a fundamental shift in how we currently think about working with each other. The Tripartite is a complex system. What we do know is that negative membership trends are not sustainable. We must adapt to the changing environment and market. We also know that the national association can't dictate this change management effort. We need to create a common vision of the future together and achieve that vision together.
Leading Change by John Kotter outlines how organizations successfully navigate change. As discussed in this book, we also believe that small "wins" through pilot programs with the national, state and with local associations have the greatest potential for success. A few pilots (streamlining membership processes, building component capacity, improving member communications and defining tripartite roles) are already underway.
Building successful "partnerships" or strategic alliances among independent organizations isn't easy. Change is hard. There are financial implications of working together in this way and together we will address these. We don't always agree on everything, and we don't need to. Where there is a shared vision and opportunity to partner to increase member value we should do so. And where there isn't, we shouldn't. To be successful, these partnerships must be built on a foundation of trust, mutual respect and shared decision-making. Each of us must be honest about what we are — and are not — best at in order to focus our efforts on those areas where we are strongest and to rely on each other to advance other aspects of our work.