Deadlines are Everything
The first thing to realize is that what you really manage isn’t CAD or BIM, but deadlines.
Some CAD managers say they manage software, plotters, users, and training, but the only reason you’re paid to do so is so projects can be completed, right? And, since projects have deadlines, we must manage everything in a way that helps the company meet those deadlines. Don't believe me? Have a CAD failure cause a project delay and see what happens.
A trick I use to keep deadlines in perspective is to sort all my tasks in the context of how they support project execution and deadlines. By sorting in this manner, I can immediately filter between tasks that are necessary, those with lower priority, and those that would be nice to do but aren’t critical. I then think about each task in terms of when it must be done and how much effort it will take me to complete it. Once you think about tasking in this way, priorities are much easier define and your work schedule starts to sort itself out.
Collecting the Data
Before you can prioritize tasks, you have to collect the task data and keep track of it over time. The method I use is to write everything down in a spiral notebook while I’m walking around the office, and then input the tasks into my trusty spreadsheet (more on that later) when I get back to a desk. I typically go through this process a couple times a day — more if needed. Whenever anyone makes a request, I job it down and ask myself a few follow-up questions which I record the answers to. The questions to ask are:
Does a project depend on the completion of this task? If yes, what project and when is the deadline for it? If no, when would the work realistically need to be completed?
What data do we have to support the work? Are there example files, specs, project standards, or other information that will help you figure out the magnitude of the problem so you can estimate the hours to complete the work?
If not project-related, what is the justification for this task? Is it simply something you would like to have, is it something a manager has requested, is it something for marketing or sales, or is it development for future projects? Be sure to find out who is the requesting/responsible party that will coordinate the work with you, so you can get more details as needed.
Populate Your Spreadsheet
Now, input all the information into your spreadsheet being sure to note key information fields for deadlines, task hours, responsible parties, etc. Think through all the parameters you need to track, but the most important are the project deadlines which will allow you to easily sort using dates. If you don’t have enough information to fill in a basic spreadsheet like this, then you’re simply guessing at the correct prioritization of your tasks. To be clear, guessing will only lead to failure down the road.
Don’t forget to add administrative tasks such as preparing budgets, employee reviews, and other time-sensitive tasks in your scheduling spreadsheet as well. These are important and must be prioritized — it’s simply the reality of being a manager.
Full disclosure: It does take a while to become disciplined about asking for the information you need and keeping your spreadsheet up-to-date, but I promise you that if you input the data, the spreadsheet will do its magic for you.
Keep reading to download Robert Green's prioritization spreadsheet to help you get started! Plus, how to use this tool to communicate with upper management to help them understand your department's workload. Read More >>