Meet Your Managers' Expectations

26 Jun, 2013 By: Robert Green

Upper management wants certain things from you as a CAD manager. Do you know what they are?

I recently spoke to a group of CAD managers in Dallas, Texas, and led an impromptu Q&A session where I let the conversation flow wherever it would. Surprisingly, I found a familiar theme from past years kept popping up: How does my management team expect me to get all this stuff done?

In my attempt to answer these concerns, I found myself articulating one of my own beliefs: "Upper management doesn't expect you to solve every single problem yourself, but they do have expectations about how they want you to handle your job!"

In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll outline the key points from our discussion in the hope that you might find it as useful as we did. Here goes.

Expectation: Communicate

Senior managers are continually presented with a wide variety of problems from all sorts of people. Therefore, it stands to reason that they will always appreciate it when the employee reporting to them can communicate in a clear, concise, and unemotional way so they can quickly get back to work fixing all those problems.

Now let's put this in a CAD manager's context with the following communication recommendations:

Write shorter reports: Write in a short, executive-summary style when creating e-mails or printed reports. View your message as a conversation starter that grabs senior management's interest so you can confer with them in detail later. It is better to pique senior management's interest with a quick e-mail than bore them with a long, detail-laden message they'll never finish reading. Limit your reports to one page!

Update your budget: Whether you craft a formal budget or not, make sure you take the time to communicate what you need and to detail any upcoming expenses you suspect aren't being accounted for. It is far better to have told management about a financial need ahead of time — even if they don't listen — than to admit you missed something. If your company uses a spreadsheet or official format for submitting budget items, get acquainted with it and use it. Those who are serious about management pay attention to budgets.

Give great presentations: Whenever you give a talk to a group of managers, make sure you have a few "conversation starter" slides you can use to make key points. Steer clear of long presentations with lots of bullet points; it is better to have fewer slides and make them less specific. Just as shorter written reports lead to conversations, shorter presentations lead to more innovative and meaningful discussions.

When presenting to management you can't tell them what they should think; instead, you have to bring them around to agreeing with you. Make your presentation somewhat open-ended, so attendees can draw their own conclusions.

Review progress regularly: Whether you're reviewing your own performance, other employees, project teams, or how well a new piece of software performs, make sure your management team knows you're reviewing how things are going. When management sees you reviewing how key personnel, systems, and teams are performing, they know you're an integral member of their team!

Avoid jargon: Years ago I received the greatest compliment a CAD manager could ever get from a senior management team. The CEO said, "For a computer guy, you are easy to understand." I was the first computer professional they'd encountered who spoke in a way that business managers could easily comprehend, as opposed to a complex jumble of techno-babble that only a computer geek could decipher.

This experience lead me to one of my most firmly held views on CAD management: When communicating with upper management, don't use technical jargon; describe the problem in business-focused terms. For example, don't say, "The Civil department keeps exploding their title blocks, which makes the block attributes revert to layer 0, thus making our plotting automation employ the wrong linetypes!" Instead, try this approach: "The Civil department isn't following standards, which is costing us 20 man-hours per week in rework."

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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