Improve Your Job Security with Weekly CAD Management Reports

26 Sep, 2012 By: Robert Green

If your senior management team doesn't understand the extent of what you do, they'll undervalue you. Keep them fully informed with concise summaries of your activities.

Over the past several weeks, I've been traveling to speak with many groups of CAD managers, and one concern that has come up repeatedly is job security. One of the best ways to ensure that upper management values your position is to keep them informed about what you do. I’ve been very surprised by how many CAD managers don't report to their senior management team on a regular basis — an omission that puts their careers at risk!

In this edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll make the case that reporting is a task you should embrace — it's critical to your success. And don't worry, I'll give you some tips to make reporting quick and easy.

Why You Need to Speak Up

Because you are the only CAD manager in your department or company (and most senior management staffs don’t understand what you do), there’s nobody else who can report on your CAD management tasks. So you only have two choices: You can either report what you do to your management teams, or you can allow them to remain in the dark about your work.

If you fail to inform your management team about your activities, many problems can result. Here are a few:

  • They will believe CAD management is easy. People who don’t understand the details of what you do will almost always underestimate how hard your job is. And when users or managers think your job is easy, they’ll try to load even more tasks onto you — thereby reducing your effectiveness.
  • They will think CAD management is limited to software. If your management team thinks CAD management is just about software, they're overlooking the many training, support, and standards issues CAD managers deal with. And that means they won't give you the support you need to handle those non-software issues.
  • They will be blind to danger on the horizon. Let’s say your company has long put off replacing an old, cranky plotter. If you keep quiet about the risk of a plotting disaster, you’ll not only preside over the resulting chaos, you'll also take some of the blame: Management will ask why you never informed anyone.
  • They will think CAD management is all overhead. When your senior management team equates CAD management with overhead, they start to question whether your position is even needed. And when that happens, your job is anything but secure.

If allowed to persist, these impressions will combine to create a negative impression about CAD management in general, and you in particular.

Reporting Is the Answer

So how do you get management to better understand your situation and value you more highly? You tell them what you do, via reports that are targeted for an executive management audience! These targeted reports include the following:

  • History. Communicate what you’ve done via a task log.
  • Forecasts. Communicate what you’re planning to do via objectives.
  • Project support. Outline how much you do to make sure projects go out correctly and on time.

The key characteristics of these reports are clarity and brevity. Senior managers are always in a hurry, and they don’t want to muddle through anything lengthy or wordy.

Your goal in each report is to paint a clear picture of what being the CAD manager is all about. By detailing all the tasks you complete, responsibilities you take on, objectives you have for improving the company, and resources you need, you’ll be viewed as “in charge” and “more managerial” — qualities that will resonate with your senior management staff.

A Simple Reporting Format

The reporting format that works best for me uses a task diary with prioritized objectives delivered on a weekly basis. This report compiles what you’ve already done and what you hope to do in a single-page, easy-to-read report. Here’s a quick example:

      This week I:

  • Installed a new plotter on the third floor (4 hrs)
  • Held job kickoff training for Project X (3 hrs)
  • Edited plotting standards for Project Y (1 hr)
  • Provided tech support for Project Z (3 hrs)
  • Peformed production engineering (32 hrs)

     Total: 43 hrs

      Next week I plan to:

  • Hold a plotter training session for Project Y (3 hrs)
  • Document/test new Revit families (5 hrs)
  • Provide technical support for Projects Y & Z (? hrs)
  • Perform production engineering (32 hrs)

I've created a very simple spreadsheet, titled "CAD Manager Report," that you can download and use as a starting point for your own reports if you wish.

The Benefits of a Weekly Report

I’ve always chosen to deliver reports on Mondays or Fridays, but the best day of the week to deliver your reports is the day your boss is most likely to be in the office and have enough time to read it.

The advantages to submitting a report using my suggested format are many, but the primary ones for you are:

  • Recording your achievements. Your task diary builds a chronological list of the diverse tasks you perform, and documents the exceptional range of tasks you work on.
  • Building value. Once your management understands how many diverse projects you tackle, they will begin to understand your value (particularly when they see how much CAD management you get done in the little time left after you complete your design duties).
  • Blowing your own horn. You raise the awareness of what CAD management really is and how valuable it is by simply listing your tasks for management to read about. In a sense, you can brag about yourself without seeming to do so.
  • Keeping yourself on task. You get the benefit of a review of what you’ve actually achieved each week, which keeps you focused on what you’re trying to accomplish. This sort of mental discipline is hard to maintain when fighting the frequent, distracting fires of CAD management, but a written weekly report will help keep you on track.

Of course, your management team also benefits from timely reporting, because they keep up with your tasks, challenges, and abilities. They also start to understand what CAD management can do to help get projects completed more quickly and less expensively!

Slay the Overhead Myth

You’ll note in my suggested reporting format that I document not only the CAD management tasks, but all tasks in a given week. My primary reason for taking this approach is to show that CAD management is only part of what most CAD managers do, and that the tasks are not merely overhead. I’ve come to accept that the constant battle over CAD management being an overhead activity will always be with us, so we might as well tackle it head-on in our reports.

To battle the perception of CAD management as overhead, I’ve done the following in my sample report format:

  • Reference projects. Wherever possible, I draw connections between CAD management tasks and specific projects to demonstrate management value.
  • Validate training. I also tie kickoff training to a particular project.
  • Show the value of tech support. By highlighting the projects for which I provide tech support, the support task becomes valuable to the project.

In all cases, I stress that projects wouldn’t get done nearly as fast or as well without CAD management coordination. And, obviously, if CAD management is performed on behalf of actual projects, it shouldn't be classified as general overhead!

Summing Up

I’m aware that many of you may be thinking, “I’ve got enough to do without having to create a weekly report!” But if you aren’t communicating what you do and how crucial CAD management is to upper management, your job won’t be as secure. Truly, you can’t afford not to spend a few minutes on these reports.

I’d recommend that you take advantage of the report template I’ve provided, and create your own weekly CAD management report. I’m positive when I say it’ll be the best 15 minutes you invest in your career every week.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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