Improve CAD Production Quality by Annoying Your Users, Part 2

22 Jan, 2013 By: Robert Green

Learn 'basic annoyance transfer' — and what to do if users don’t respond — and you'll be on your way to improved CAD workflows.

In this installment of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll continue my series about using annoyance to increase the quality of your CAD processes. I'll discuss management techniques you can use to transfer the annoyance of your current problems to their source — and, I hope, to end them.

I discovered the concept of annoyance transfer upon reading a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. The authors, Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan, recommended that managers channel the consequences of workplace errors to the person who caused the error, rather than dealing with the problem themselves. I realized immediately that this approach could be the answer to dealing with CAD standards violations and many other CAD-related problems. If you haven't had a chance to read Part 1 of this series, I recommend that you do so now so you'll have proper context for Part 2. Once you've done your Part 1 homework to identify your intervention points and contacts, you’re ready to take action. Here goes.

Basic Annoyance Transfer: Assign the Problem

Let's begin our annoyance transfer exercise with an example scenario:

Joe, who works in the mechanical design department, continually ignores layering standards for DWG files. When those files make their way to an automated cutting tool on the shop floor, Larry the tool operator has to clean up Joe's DWG files before he can manufacture parts.

Using my intervention point/contact logic from the previous installment, we can see that the problem (errors in the DWG files) is being detected by Larry (the intervention point), so Larry will therefore be our intervention contact for resolving the problem. We will then transfer the annoyance back to Joe to fix and resubmit the problem DWG files to Larry. Larry will then be my follow-up contact to verify that the problem is resolved. Of course, this process only works when senior management empowers the necessary personnel — in this case, the CAD manager and Larry — to confront the source of the problem. More on that shortly.

Note: A reader questioned why my recommended approach focuses on the person who detects the problem rather than the person who is the root of the problem. The fact is, the person who detects the problem knows more about it and what needs to be done to fix it than anyone else does — myself included. Who better to help me monitor the process as we transfer the annoyance and get it fixed?

To deal with a situation such as the one described, start with what I’ll call basic annoyance transfer. I break down the process as follows, illustrated with our example scenario:

Communicate. "Joe, I've been helping Larry fix the DWG files you send him for proper upload to the laser cutter. We've noticed that you're not following our standard DWG format, and this is causing substantial rework and wasted time in Larry's department. Will you commit to following company standards so we can make this problem go away without involving management?"

Listen. If Joe replies, "Yes, I'll fix my files," you're done. On the other hand, if Joe says, "I can't follow the standard because of the following technical issues," you may have to investigate the problem and resolve any issues. (If Joe’s response is essentially, "You’re not my boss, so quit bothering me," then you've got a bigger problem on your hands. More on that shortly.)

Document. Whatever the outcome of your conversation with Joe, you need to document it carefully. After all, you can't prove somebody is continuing to cause problems if you don't document the details.

At this point you may have resolved the problem, which would be great! But if this approach doesn’t lead to resolution, you'll need to go beyond basic annoyance transfer.


Transfer Annoyance Up the Ladder

In the event that you encounter hard-core violators who continue to create problems after the basic annoyance transfer takes place, you'll need to adopt a more aggressive approach to assigning annoyance. In my experience, dealing with these violators requires two key ingredients: management involvement and financial focus.

When you can't get your users to do their jobs correctly, you'll have to go up the ladder. But that begs the question as to why a user’s boss should get involved with something like Joe's CAD-standards problem, doesn't it? The answer is to make the violator's boss aware of the financial impact of the problem.

For stubborn problems, follow this advanced strategy:

Report the noncompliance. If a few more violations occur and the basic method clearly isn't working, transfer the annoyance — and your documentation of the problem — to the violator's boss.

Focus on the financial impact. At this time the violator, Joe, is costing the company money because Larry has to keep fixing Joe's files (or you do). When talking with Joe's boss, you must clearly communicate this financial loss. You can say something such as, "Every week Larry has to fix at least two of Joe's files, which requires about an hour of Larry's time. Over a 52-week year, based on Larry's $45/hour rate, this costs us $2,340 — all because Joe refuses to draw on the right layer."

At this point you're talking with a senior manager about quality and finance — the stuff he or she cares about most. Joe won't be happy that you've gone to his boss, but he left you no other option.

My experience shows that the following will likely occur:

  • Joe's boss will tell Joe to fix the problem.
  • Joe's boss will make it clear to Joe that he or she doesn’t want to be annoyed about this again.
  • Joe will become more responsive to your requests in the future.

So although Joe may be annoyed that you went to his boss, he'll also do what he should have done in the first place. Problem solved, thanks to annoyance transfer!

Automated Annoyance Transfer

The challenge I foresee with my annoyance transfer process is that the annoyance transfer only happens when I, the CAD manager, become directly involved to do the transferring. To maintain and automate annoyance transfer, CAD managers need a system: Every time a quality problem is detected, the system assigns a corrective measure to the person who created the problem.

I've thought about this annoyance automation concept a good deal and determined that it could be implemented using the "andon cord" concept, which has been widely associated with Toyota's lean manufacturing processes (and detailed in the book, How Toyota Became #1: Leadership Lessons from the World's Greatest Car Company, if you’re interested in learning more). We’ll look at implementing an andon cord methodology in the next installment of the series, but the basic steps required should speak directly to CAD managers struggling with CAD standards and quality control, specifically the following:

  • Management clearly supports standards and processes.
  • Management agrees quality problems must be fixed.
  • Management enforces the process when required.
  • Everyone is a partner in the quality-control process.
  • Violators are expected to fix their mistakes.
  • Continuous improvement is the goal.

Your Next Homework Assignment

At this point you should be able to implement your basic annoyance transfer process and, when necessary, address uncooperative violators by transferring annoyance up the ladder. But to make the annoyance transfer mechanism a permanent part of your CAD management strategy, you'll need to think about implementing your own version of an andon cord.

So to prepare for the final installment in the series, think through the following questions:

  • How can you build enthusiasm for quality control in the workplace?
  • How will you get management to support the andon cord concept?
  • Who will be your key CAD users and project managers who will help you test the concept in your day-to-day CAD tasking?
  • What would be the best mechanism (e-mail, phone, verbal) to use when users "pull the cord"?

When you've come up with some answers to these questions, you'll be ready to implement a problem-reporting system powered by your users, thus fully automating the annoyance transfer of quality violations.

Summing Up

The more I think about annoyance transfer, the more enthused I become about the concept. It has real potential to help CAD managers focus on key quality problems such as standards adherence, interdepartmental communication, and even training. My hope is that you can start using this concept to take control of quality management in your company.

In the next installment, we'll complete our discussion of how to use annoyance to help manage CAD. Until then.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

Add comment

Note: Comments are moderated and will appear live after approval by the site moderator.

AutoCAD Tips!

Lynn Allen

In her easy-to-follow, friendly style, long-time Cadalyst contributing editor Lynn Allen guides you through a new feature or time-saving trick in every episode of her popular AutoCAD Video Tips. Subscribe to the free Cadalyst Video Picks newsletter, and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!

Follow Lynn on TwitterFollow Lynn on Twitter

Download Cadalyst Magazine Special Edition