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!


The Mission Defines Methods and Tools

Now that you’ve clarified that you’re not overly dependent on or committed to any particular tools, you’ve freed your team to choose the most appropriate tools for the job. In fact, great work teams often develop their own tools to overcome problems associated with achieving their missions, while mediocre teams with great tools often don’t achieve anything inspiring. As a reference standard, I always cite the example of the Apollo/LEM navigation computer created by NASA in 1966.

Mission: Create a guidance system that could navigate a rocket to the moon and back — a task never completed before — in two years.

The result: The first digital computer with 38K ROM and 2K (0.000002 GB) of RAM, a single core, and clock frequency of 512 KHz (0.0000005 GHz). The computer weighed 70 pounds and was the size of a large shoe box.

The team literally invented the first “miniature” digital computer — not because they set out to create a computer, but because it was the only way they could complete the task at hand. The team was given a very aggressive (some would say impossible) mission timeline, and they figured out how to get it done via cooperation and innovation — and they changed the entire perception of what a computer could be as they did it. What could an ambitious CAD mission do for your productivity in your company, if you unleashed everyone to embrace the challenge?

Technology Accelerators: Standards and Tools

In Good to Great, Collins describes how to move a company toward greatness by adopting technology tools to significantly increase productivity. He calls these types of tools technology accelerators, and he uses the productivity litmus test to separate great technology from that which doesn’t help. Collins says that only technology that accelerates your processes should be adopted — all else should be scrapped.

In my experience, these technologies/tools can be thought of as CAD systems, utility software tools, custom programs, standardized workflows, and the training it takes to implement them. Using Collins’s accelerator logic, I’ve learned to separate these tools into “do” and “don’t” categories, as shown below.

Do adopt tools that:

  • You can manage effectively
  • Are robust, open, and able to work under production pressure
  • Reduce man-hours for known tasks
  • Automate standardized workflows
  • Provide a work product that customers will pay for
  • Can be customized to fit your specific needs.

Don’t adopt tools that:

  • Are cranky, buggy, or based on proprietary formats
  • Are trendy, cool, or the “it” application right now
  • You don’t have the expertise to manage
  • Would “undo” more than they do
  • Are “off the shelf” and mistake them for “mission-specific” tools.

When considering new technologies, you must always look for the upside, yet acknowledge the possible downside. And remember that if the technology isn’t making your projects faster or lowering costs, then there is no business purpose for adopting it.

Pulling It Together: You as the Leader

One thing is for sure: Making all this happen is going to require leadership on your part. Collins refers to those who can inspire greatness in others as Level 5 Leaders. The attributes of a Level 5 Leader are as follows:

  • Builds greatness seemingly without trying to
  • Inspires others to take ownership of what they do
  • Expects results and demands competency
  • Emphasizes the mission
  • Demonstrates commitment to those who do the above
  • Remains humble, positive, results-driven, and non-egotistical.

If I convert this list of attributes to CAD/technology manager–specific characteristics, the picture of a Level 5 CAD Manager emerges like this:

  • Builds a great CAD team via competency, consistency, and training
  • Inspires users to learn their tasks and tools thoroughly
  • Demands high-quality work from all users via consistent communication
  • Adjusts tools and methods as needed to achieve the CAD mission
  • Supports the users who work hard to be great and mission-focused
  • Driven yet calm, inquisitive, mentoring, and conversational.

Senior Management Loves Great

As you do all this and lead users to greatness, you’ll have to explain what you’re up to. When you start pushing people to change how they work, someone is sure to object, and senior management is bound to hear about it. You can head off these objections by talking to your senior management team in terms of greatness. Here’s how I usually frame the conversation:

  • We need to become great at CAD/BIM
  • But great doesn’t just happen, it takes work
  • If you can support me on our Good-to-Great mission, we will

               • Save money 
               • Speed project delivery
               • Use our resources optimally
               • Make our customers happier

  • Can you please communicate your support for this mission?
  • When can we start?

As you have the conversation about greatness, stress the business results that it will bring, and downplay the technology. When technology does come up, have the conversation about the CAD team you’ve built, and how you’re using technology to accelerate the business needs of the organization.

Be sure to stress that you’re not “playing with technology,” but rather looking out for the company. Senior management may not believe this at first, but they’ll eventually start to see your results and will come along sooner or later.


Finally, a few words about persistence. Big things can happen when you apply a consistent force over time, and greatness is the same way, if you make the commitment to it.

So don’t say: Wow, that project went really well, now we can kick back.

Say this instead: Let’s enjoy our success for the moment, but what is our next mission?

Summing Up

In a world of standards violations, lost files, cranky cloud-based software, and unending technical support, it is sometimes tempting to just settle for being good at your job and not going insane. But if you want to be great at CAD management, you can be — just know that to do so, you’ll have to change how you approach the job.

It is my hope that you can use the strategies I’ve developed using Jim Collins’ Good to Great principles to implement a CAD mission and help your company strive for greatness. Until next time.


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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green