CAD Manager Self-Improvement, Part 2

25 Sep, 2007 By: Robert Green

How to get your senior management team to pay for your training.

In the previous issue of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I asked you to ponder the question of how you can become better educated. I gave you some pointers for identifying what you need to learn, where to get the resources, and how to make a basic financial case for your management team to support your training goals. I hope you've taken the time to build your learning plan and prioritize your learning objectives so that you can now write up your plan and make a persuasive pitch to your boss. If not, you should take some time to read the last issue now and get up to speed.

In this issue I'll take you through the process of transforming your learning plan into a marketable document that you can use to sell the concept of training to your senior management while getting your user base on board as well. Here goes.

What They'll Pay You to Learn
I interrupt this learning plan session to bring you a dose of reality. The fact of the matter is that there are things that we might want to learn and then there are things we need to learn to help our company. Your company is interested in only the topics that fit neatly into the latter category. So while you might want to learn how to animate human features in Maya, it is doubtful that your company will pay for it unless you are a professional animator.

So take another quick look through your learning plan objectives and be honest about whether the learning objectives will really be of service to your company. If not, bypass that item for now and focus on the things your company really needs.

Building the Justification
I'm fond of saying that the only two things that ever really cause change in any organization are getting work done faster or cheaper, and ideally both. So if you want to get approval for your training plan, you're going to have to sell the aspect of faster/cheaper to everyone around you.

Cheaper. It's no secret that senior management likes any idea you bring to them that will get the same amount of work done for less money. So the challenge now becomes to isolate the items in your training plan that can help you achieve results that save money.

Faster. It's also no secret that users like to get their work done faster. In fact, their bosses also like things getting done faster because time is money, so faster completion can lead to savings. But there's another side to faster, which includes happier customers, less cranky project managers, and reduction in overtime.

Hint. In the last issue I recommended trying to compute any labor savings (or increased productivity if you prefer) that you could realize as a result of meeting a learning objective. The higher that savings tallies, the more likely that your company will pay for that type of training.

Now skim through your list of learning objectives and figure out which ones you will focus on and really fight to get approved. Remember you might not get everything you ask for, so prioritizing is always a good backup plan. Here are some good faster/cheaper learning objectives that your management will like:

Programming. Programming knowledge can allow you to turn complex manual procedures into single button clicks that greatly reduce errors, save time, and create savings all the way around.

Software update training. Many CAD managers learn new software products via independent learning, which means they can have wide gaps in their knowledge of the latest products. How can the CAD manager get everyone else up to speed and at maximum efficiency when they're not? While it is hard to place a dollar value on any savings achieved with software update training, we do know that you can deliver training faster and cheaper when you know the software really well, right?

The Final Write-Up
In the last installment I recommended keeping track of your learning objectives in a Word document to form the basis of a written request. If you followed my advice, you can now open up your document and put the finishing touches on it based on the thought processes and prioritization analyses you've performed to this point.

Here are some tips for crafting your final write-up that always seem to work:

Tone down the technicality. Strip out the technical buzzwords and stick to learning objectives. Write things like "Attend programming class to automate our drawing setups and reduce user errors." Don't write things like "Attend VB.NET class to achieve porting of old COM object model code to new .NET framework." You do see the difference, right?

Play up efficiency. Include details of your cost savings estimates. Show the accountants why it makes sense for them to train you by citing numbers, percentages, and efficiency gains.

Schedule it out. Provide some suggested timeframes to show your boss that you will still be able to do your job while you learn.

State your priorities. Don't be afraid to divide your learning objectives into "must haves" and "nice to haves" so your management can see your priorities. If you can't get everything you ask for, at least you can get those training items that are of highest priority. My experience is that management really appreciates respect for their budget limitations and honesty in setting priorities.

Tally up the costs. Create an executive summary of the costs for training, tools (compilers, books, etc.), and travel for you to attend training. You know they'll ask the question, so give them the answer before they have to ask.

The trick in writing the request document is to make it detailed enough so that it is obvious you've done your homework without being overly technical or too long. Aim for three to four pages tops, but shorter is always better. Target the document to senior management level and you should do well. And remember, senior level personnel will review this document, and it will reflect directly on you. So do a thorough job and check everything at least twice prior to submitting your work!

Now Make Your Pitch
You should now be ready to submit your written training request plan and start making your case with senior management and users alike. So get ready to do some marketing on your own behalf. If you don't push for CAD management training, nobody will!

As you start talking to people, always remember that your training should achieve cost savings for your company and time savings for your users. The fact that you'll be learning (and become a more marketable CAD manager with unlimited career potential) is simply a byproduct of helping your company become more competitive. Not a bad byproduct, don't you agree?

In the next issue of CAD Manager's Newsletter I'll give you some tips for balancing your new training program with production tasks and how to integrate your new skills into your CAD management tool palette as you learn. Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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