What to Do When the Problem User Is the Owner

23 May, 2012 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager's Toolbox: To help a stubborn owner see the light, communicate frequently and let the numbers do the talking.

I received an e-mail thanking me for my tip about dealing with problem users, and it posed a further question: What to do when the problem user is the owner of the company? I, too, have encountered this problematic character — the "hands-on CAD user/owner" — and I think sharing my strategy may help CAD managers working in small companies.

First, you must understand the following two rules:

  1. The owner is always right.
  2. When the owner is wrong, see rule No. 1.

You'll never get anywhere telling the person who owns the company that he or she is wrong. What you can do is show the owner faster ways to do things and emphasize that you can save them money if everybody does things the way that you propose.

Break down the process of demonstrating the faster way to do things like this:

Demonstrate the wrong way first.
Use phrasing such as, "This is how we tend to do things now, and as a result, it takes us about this long to complete our work," or something along those lines. This approach establishes a baseline of comparison you'll need in the next step, without directly criticizing the owner's CAD habits.

Next, showcase the better way. Say something like, "If we do our work this way, we'll reduce the chance for errors and get our work done 20% faster as we do so." Note that everything you're doing highlights time savings — and we all know that time is money.

Let the conversation evolve in a financial direction. Let your owner ask you questions about other ways to save time and money. Listen closely; you may be surprised to see your owner find ways to save time with CAD once he or she starts thinking about the possibilities.

Never use a condescending tone.
I repeat: You'll never get anywhere by trying to make the boss feel stupid. Present yourself as a collaborator with a common goal, not a disciplinarian correcting bad behavior.

Repeat. This process should be repeated as often as your owner is interested in talking with you. The more of these conversations you have, the more your owner will become a proactive CAD planner and CAD management advocate. And as this process evolves, you'll see your owner start to use CAD the "right way," because he or she will feel like an integral part of finding the "right way" in the first place.

Give this process a try. When owners realize that changing the way they use CAD will make them money, they usually see the light. It almost always works when I try it!

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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