CAD Manager Productivity Hints, Part 3

8 Mar, 2006 By: Robert Green

Some final suggestions to make you look -- and work -- smarter

In the last edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter (click here for archives), I continued my productivity hints series by giving you some ideas about how to leverage yourself with respect to handling CAD standards. Many readers wrote to say they were able to use my hints to get better results. Great!

In this installment, I’ll wrap up my productivity hints series with some topics that will help you innovate and be more proactive in your job, thus making you look smarter and better prepared – not to mention more productive.Here goes.

Tip 1: Start a “Bright Ideas List”

The “Bright Ideas List” is simply a way for you to capture your best ideas when you have them, instead of forgetting them. I guess I’m old school because I have a spiral notebook that I keep on my desk or in my laptop bag, depending on where I am, that functions as my bright ideas list. The great thing about a spiral notebook is that it stays in order, is harder to lose than a scrap of paper, and requires no batteries to function. I can use my bright ideas notebook in taxis, on crowded airplanes, while waiting to pick up my kids at the hockey rink and so forth, without having to boot up an electronic device.

The point is that most successful CAD managers think about things all the time yet never really know when the lightning bolt of innovation will strike. If you have a notebook handy for capturing those thoughts when they happen, you’ll never lose that inspiration, and you set yourself up to follow through and act on your idea because now it’s in writing.

Conclusion: A great idea forgotten is worse than never having had one.

Tip 2: Form a Power User Club

You know who the power users in your company are, right? Power users are the people who help you find and solve problems, give you hints for doing things better, help you with technical support issues and provide key insight into areas of engineering or design that might not be familiar to you. Power users represent a huge reserve of intellectual capital that is simply waiting to be tapped if you can find a way to keep the lines of communication open. So why not create a power user club for the express purpose of facilitating the exchange of knowledge?

Forming a power user club sends several key signals to your user community, which I’ll summarize here:

  • It shows that you’re listening rather than dictating CAD policy.
  • It shows that you understand the unique value of the power users’ base of knowledge.
  • It builds a team out of people who would otherwise be separated by departmental or project boundaries and allows them to focus on what’s good for the whole company.
  • It allows you to know your power users as people and understand their motivations and frustrations without the pressures of deadlines or support problems.

If you can get a group of power users to form a club, take it to the next level by doing a power user lunch each month or even go out after work to throw darts, play pool or have dinner together. I promise that when you put a bunch of smart people together in a relaxed environment where innovative thought is appreciated, they’ll reward you with productivity tips you might never have considered.

Note: Whenever you attend a power user club meeting, be sure to take your “Bright Ideas List” with you to capture all the great ideas you know you’ll hear!

Tip 3: Share Credit

Whenever someone gives you an idea that becomes a great idea later, or when your power user club generates a great problem-solving methodology, go out of your way to share credit with those who’ve helped you. By sharing the credit, you achieve the following short- and long-term productivity benefits:

  • You make people want to work with you because they’ll genuinely appreciate the recognition of their time and talents.
  • You’ll build a virtual department of deputy CAD managers who’ll be more than willing to help you.
  • You’ll demonstrate to your boss that you can manage a virtual staff of people for the financial and technological benefit of the company.

Question: Don’t you like to work with people who acknowledge you and value your ideas? Why should those who work with you be any different?

Tip 4: Keep Your Budget Document Handy

I know that somebody, somewhere must really love preparing annual budgets and documenting all the details -- but that person is not me. So rather than putting off budgeting work until a few days before your budget is due, treat your budget as an on-going process that should be tweaked and adjusted throughout the year -- saving you time and effort in the long run.

Note: In fact, you might find that every time something really big goes on your “Bright Ideas List,” you’ll need to update your budget to reflect it.

Summing Up

I hope you’ve found some helpful hints in this series of CAD Manager’s Newsletters. As always, my goal is to help the working CAD manager get more done during the day, avoid wasted effort and look smart while doing so. If there are any other tips you’d like to share, please e-mail me at

In the next few issues of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll take an initial look at Autodesk’s recently announced AutoCAD 2007 lineup from a CAD manager’s perspective. Rather than talking about all the new features -- a number of blogs are already doing that -- we’ll focus on the aspects of AutoCAD 2007 that could require changes in your management strategy as well as those that present unique opportunities. Until then.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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