CAD Management Vision: From Good to Great, Part 2

10 Jun, 2020 By: Robert Green

To overcome the natural human tendencies toward laziness and resistance to change, give your users a mission!

In the previous edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, we began the process of identifying where your company is on the greatness spectrum by giving you some homework to do. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to read through Part 1 of this topic and ponder the diagnostic questions, but if not, please take a few moments to do so before you proceed.

In this edition, we’ll explore some strategies from a best-selling Jim Collins management book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't. I’ve slightly adapted these strategies to CAD management tasks, so your company can strive toward technical, cultural, and process greatness. Here goes.

Why “Good Enough” Really Isn’t

One of the key concepts Collins describes in his book is the idea of good being the enemy of great. In other words, once your users reach a certain level of skill at CAD, they get complacent and never strive for anything more. Or, rhetorically speaking, “Why strive for CAD greatness? Achieving greatness is hard, and we’re already pretty good.”

pathdoc /

If you’ve been a CAD manager for a while, you may recognize this “good enough” problem in the following statements:

  • Why should we enhance our standards? We get work out the door now.
  • Do we really need to make those changes? It’s going to be difficult.
  • Don’t worry about doing it the right way, just get it done!

It turns out that for any CAD manager to make things work better, he or she first must overcome the basic human tendencies toward laziness and resistance to change. But if you only keep things running “well enough,” nothing will ever be “great,” it seems. So how should you deal with this conundrum?

Missions Are the Catalyst for Greatness

First things first: People must want to be great. You can’t force anyone to be a great CAD user — you need to inspire them to become great by their own free will. So how do you do that? By challenging your users to achieve a mission, and watching them figure out how they’ll do it. For example, if management is telling you this:

“We need to reduce BIM [building information modeling] hours on our modular school projects and get started on construction sooner.”

Then challenge your users with a mission that has the overall goal of becoming great, but also incorporates specific, measurable targets so everyone will know when greatness is achieved:

“We will become the most efficient BIM design producer of modular school buildings in our industry. We will reduce our BIM labor cost on these projects by 20% and deliver completed documentation to construction 3 weeks faster. All of us here need to figure out the best way to achieve this mission based on what we know and how we can work at our highest efficiency.”

Note that the mission only said what the outcome should be, not which tools or techniques must be used. For goodness’ sake, don’t say anything too specific or technical, like this:

“We will spend a lot of time writing programs and Dynamo scripts to automate the production of RFA families and transmission of 2D geometry to layout tabs for annotation and PDF file capture.”

Tools Do Not Guarantee Greatness

Think you can’t achieve greatness without the latest and greatest tools? Think again. Think that enduring quality can’t be obtained without the latest whizbang software and computers? Think again!

History is replete with examples of new technologies delivering bad results. Consider a couple of recent examples of technology tools running amok, such as:

  • Computer-simulated hybrid brakes and accelerator pedals involved in Toyota/Lexus recalls.
  • Computer-designed flight control system in the now-grounded Boeing 737 MAX airliner.

Both these projects used cutting-edge tools, yet they produced results that caused many fatalities. In both cases, the management teams became so attached to the tools they were using that they ignored the warning signs and experienced design results that were far, far less than great.

If you prefer architectural examples, consider the following cases of catastrophic failure and great success:

Lotus Riverside Complex
Shanghai, China
June 27, 2009

An ordinary construction mission using modern CAD tools, advanced construction techniques, and high-speed project completion yielded a spectacular failure when an apartment building toppled over!

Sphinx and Great Pyramid
Giza, Egypt
c. 2540 BC

A mission for the ages: This massive construction project was completed using Bronze Age tools, but delivered quality results that have endured for four-and-a-half millennia!

So do the newest, most sophisticated tools guarantee great results? The Lotus Riverside Complex example dispels that myth. Can great methods and workflows overcome poor tools? The Great Pyramid would indicate yes. Or, to put it in a CAD context: Will your projects be great simply because you have the latest version of a software tool, or are the workflows and methodologies you use — combined with the workmanship of your team — more important? I think you know the answer.

1 2 

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

More News and Resources from Cadalyst Partners

For Mold Designers! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the mold design professional. Sponsored by Siemens NX.  Visit the Equipped Mold Designer here!

For Architects! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the building design professional. Sponsored by HP.  Visit the Equipped Architect here!