CAD Manager's Newsletter (#435)12 Nov, 2019 By: Robert Green
Manage Major Changes with Incremental Innovation
In CAD management, the only thing that doesn't change ... is that things change! When coping with changes in software, hardware, or workflows, choose an approach that minimizes risk and cost.
Two things have always been true in CAD management. The first is that change is a constant: We CAD managers are always being confronted with major changes, such as new software, new hardware, and new workflows for storing data. And the second truth is that we must find innovative ways to get through all those changes; we are expected to figure out how our companies will absorb the new tools and processes to become more efficient while still getting work done.
In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll explain why the best way to deal with change is to innovate incrementally — not radically — and I'll provide strategies to assist you along the way. Here goes.
Radical = Costly and Unpredictable
When we hear about "innovation," the implied meaning is usually "big changes brought on by radical new tools or technologies." This version of innovation gets all the attention, yet radical change is rarely something a CAD manager should implement. Radical changes, such as moving to entirely new tools, generate downstream effects that most companies don't tolerate well — and no CAD manager can accomplish that kind of change on his or her own anyway.
Consider these complications of radical changes:
|•||Big costs. Radical changes in tools cost lots of money, which requires extensive upper management research and support.|
|•||Extensive workflow changes. Radical changes in tools cause changes in workflows, which require lots of training and staff adaptation.|
|•||Unforeseen disruptions. Radical changes in workflows always lead to unknown problems that have to be fixed. These problems delay project execution and drive up costs. Even worse, the magnitude of the delays and costs can't be known until you're knee-deep in them.|
The conclusion is obvious to me: CAD managers will never be able to drive radical innovation on their own, because it requires total support and big investment from senior management. Want to know why it has taken decades for 3D and building information modeling (BIM) to displace 2D work methods? Because the change to the organization is radical.
What CAD managers can execute is a more modest process I like to call incremental innovation, which allows for smaller changes to workflows that keep risks and costs under control. Let's investigate.
Incremental = Affordable and Doable
If I consider how I can innovate to make my company's CAD environment work better, I realize that I must operate within the core constraints of my job responsibilities. Those being:
|•||Keep the tools running|
|•||Keep the users efficient|
|•||Keep projects on track|
|•||Keep labor costs down|
So my question now becomes, Which new tools, techniques, training topics, and workflows that I have the authority to implement can help me meet these objectives? And as my previous articles on CAD manager authority have pointed out, you can only innovate when you have the authority to do so. Otherwise you'll be stuck waiting for managerial approval.
The answer to the questions I posed above forms the basis of your incremental innovation plan. The plan will use innovative solutions to known problems, applied incrementally as time permits.
Call for CAD Freebies — Last Chance!
Point your fellow CAD users toward no- and low-cost tools and resources that can help them with their work! Cadalyst is updating our "Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users" guide, and we'd like your input. Do you have a favorite software tool or resource that doesn't cost a thing? It could be a PDF converter, a sketching tool, a file utility, an AutoLISP routine, a library of downloadable models, or anything else that helps you with your work. Every reader who submits a relevant tool will receive a copy of the updated e-guide before it's available publicly, bypassing the usual registration requirements.
Send your tool recommendation(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, November 15, for consideration. Be sure to include:
|•||Your full name, the name of the tool, and the company that provides it|
|•||The website where readers can access or download the tool|
|•||A brief description of what you use it for and/or why you like it.|
It's that simple! Tools selected for publication will be listed in the updated e-guide, available publicly in the new year. Thank you in advance for helping your fellow CAD users!
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