CAD Management Strategies, Part 222 Jan, 2008 By: Robert Green
Here are some smart tips for getting — and staying — ahead in your day-to-day CAD management activities.
Some exciting new changes are in the works for CAD Manager’s Newsletter that you will start to see beginning with the next issue. You can look forward to more technical coverage (including tips, tricks, and utilities that you can use) as well as interviews with industry experts and expanded analysis of the annual CAD Manager Survey results. Stay tuned for these changes, and please e-mail me to let me know what you think. After all, it is you -- the working CAD manager -- that I wish to serve, and thus your opinions are an invaluable aid in making this newsletter a more valid resource.
In this issue of the newsletter, I’ll finish presenting my CAD manager strategies that I began in the January 9 issue. If you haven't had a chance to read that issue, you may want to do so now to have proper context for this issue. Here goes.
You can’t do it all, nor should you! Your managers don't care how a task is completed; they simply care that it was completed in a timely manner. You’ll get the credit for being a great manager when you get more done.
So are you better off doing less because you don’t have time, or are you better off finding a way to get it done by delegating tasks to others in your department, your reseller, or a consultant? Clearly the answer is that you’re better off to delegate.
Manage to Meet Deadlines
Your managers want CAD work to go out on budget and on time. They don’t much care why a project is late; they just know it is late. So if you manage your day-to-day tasks in a way that gives you the best chance to meet deadlines, you’ll have the best possible reputation with your management.
Have an impossible deadline? Go to your management and explain why it is impossible and ask for advice and help. You may be surprised at how helpful they are when they understand the problems you’re having.
Bonus: Even if you miss deadlines, you’re always better off communicating the problem earlier rather than later.
Be Cautious with 3D Implementations
Many great CAD managers have suffered because they underestimated the complexity of rolling out 3D systems. Remember that you’re radically changing how users work when you take away their familiar 2D tools. The reality is you’re in for rough sledding when you do so!
Take the time to carefully plan your 3D implementation, benchmark everything, and test how well your users will accept the change. Proceed cautiously and set realistic goals and expectations so you won’t have to tell your boss why you’re so far behind.
Train Small, Train Often
Don’t train your users once a year in one, long, boring four-day chunk.
Do train your users once a month (or twice a month) at lunch and learns or short, focused sessions.
Training delivered in frequent, short sessions builds a culture of learning, keeps users in the office more, and keeps project managers happier because jobs aren’t affected by missing staff. You’ll also get better learning from your users because they can immediately apply the topics they’ve learned.
Make IT Your Ally
If you work with an IT department, realize that a good relationship with IT can make CAD management easier because you’re more likely to get the hardware, network configurations, and deployment help you need. A poor relationship with IT can lead to problems.
Try reaching out to IT and explain that you want to build a close working relationship. Explain your concerns and offer to help them as much as you can in return for the help they’ll extend to you. At the very least, you’ll have fewer IT problems as a result.
Bonus: You may find that you’ll educate IT about CAD and make them more receptive to your ideas for a more efficient CAD environment. That’s a win-win scenario that makes everyone’s life easier.
Beef Up Your Speaking Skills
Get comfortable with PowerPoint and practice your public speaking because speaking well to management, to users, to vendors, and to customers always gains you respect.
Consider recording your presentations with a digital recorder and then listen to yourself. It is amazing how much you’ll improve from using this simple tip.
Beef Up Your Programming
Programming encompasses many different topics and levels of complexity. Let me give you a few examples:
- Know nothing about customization? Learn some basic CUI concepts in AutoCAD.
- Know nothing about LISP? Learn a little to get started.
- Know a little about LISP? Learn some more.
- Want to learn .NET? Take a course in it.
The bottom line is this: CAD managers who program have a lot more tools in their skill set. The market is rewarding programming skills more and more (in $$), so why not tap into the demand.
Slow, Steady, Methodical
CAD management isn’t a sprint -- it’s a marathon. The CAD managers I’ve seen who expected to get everything done in six months always wind up burned out and unhappy. Conversely, the CAD manager who makes a plan, works the plan, and stays the course over time always gets good results and isn’t often frustrated.
Be patient, keep at it, and you’ll always do better.
I hope you find some of the strategies in this series useful. If you have any other good ideas, please email them to me and I’ll print some of the best in upcoming newsletters.
In the next edition of CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll be unveiling a few changes and reporting back on the results of the topics survey I outlined in the Q&A section. Until next time.