CAD

Means to an End

11 Jul, 2012 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

Is your company one that blocks employee access to YouTube and social media sites in an effort to keep workers productive? Does the practice help time-wasters see the light and become more responsible — or do they just and other ways to shirk work?

Micromanaging staff by updating a few server settings is much easier than establishing ground rules and clearly communicating expectations, but it won't solve the slacking problem. Plus, it cuts off access to valuable professional resources and makes responsible workers feel resentful. Just as in parenting, punitive management actions don't necessarily yield long-term benefits — and can often backfire, spurring increasingly worse behavior.

Policing blindly, rather than establishing effective, nuanced procedures, is a common response when a company concentrates on tools instead of people and processes. In his latest "CAD Manager" column ("CAD: Just a Tool in Your Toolbox"), Robert Green tackles this CAD management misstep, advising that a focus on good design will ultimately lead to payoffs that aren't possible if you're focusing too narrowly on technology deployments.

"Which technology do we need, and when?" should never be the first questions you ask. To find success where technology is involved, you must first know your goals as an organization or department (or as an individual, if you work independently). Ask instead, "What is our mission?" Do you aim to develop the highest-quality products, create energy-efficient buildings, make roads safer?

Once you've clearly defined your mission, the next question should be, "What are the processes we need to improve and the problems we need to overcome to reach our goal?" This approach will naturally lead to smarter software and hardware purchasing decisions and easier implementation, because it puts the focus on the benefits of change rather than the challenges.

Let me clarify that this does not mean you should ignore the issue of technology upgrades! We couldn't be successful today without the software and hardware that support our workflows, and those tools are constantly evolving. But an organization should implement new technology only if and when it supports business goals, not "because it's time" or in response to the latest marketing or media buzz.

I hope my words will reach the managers and business owners responsible for adopting CAD tools, but they apply equally to the users in the trenches, for a different reason: Considering yourself to be, first and foremost, a CAD user — a tool wielder — could cause you to lose sight of a more meaningful purpose.

As a prime example, take Uriel Castillo, the subject of our "User Profile". Employed in the utilities engineering department of the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Castillo is a CADD technician by title. But he believes his real purpose is making his city a better place for its residents — and CAD technology is a means to that end.

Keeping your eye on the big picture, instead of just the tools you use, can lead to increased job performance, as Green asserts, as well as increased job satisfaction; your contributions will become more personal, more meaningful, more satisfying. It's all about perspective!


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