CAD Standards, Part 5: Enforcement

7 Aug, 2007 By: Robert Green

Tips for getting users to follow the standards you worked so hard to create.

In the last installment of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I continued my series on CAD standards by explaining how you can ensure that your standards are results and process focused. I hope that everything I've covered in this series has led you to an understanding that CAD standards are simply a way of working smart, in a coordinated process, to get more done. After all, if standards don't help you get more done over the long haul, what's the point of having them? If you haven't had a chance to read the first installments, I recommend doing so now.

This time I will talk about the ultimate CAD standards problem: enforcement. Where standards are concerned, enforcement is "where the rubber meets the road," so it is critical that we give this crucial task the attention it deserves. Here goes.

I'll start the discussion with an e-mail message I received from a frustrated CAD manager:

"I've built my standards, but for whatever reason I just can't get people to follow them! What's the problem? Why won't people follow the rules? Help!"

We've probably all felt this way at some point in our CAD management careers, and this email provides a natural segue into enforcement from a user perspective rather than from a CAD manager's perspective. My experience has shown me that when you understand the user's perspective, you can start addressing issues to the user's satisfaction.

The core reasons I see that users don't follow standards are as follows:

  • Standards are perceived as too hard to follow or hard to read.
  • Standards make users work in a way that's uncomfortable for them.
  • Even good standards sometimes aren't supported by management.

Let's tackle these topics one by one, taking the user's perspective and highlighting what the CAD manager can do to overcome the objection. For each one I'll give you some tips that I've used to shake things up and get users on board.

Too Hard To Follow
If users tell you that your standards are too hard to follow, they usually mean that they don't want to take the time to read through a wordy standards document. In the previous two installments I pointed out ways you can use video recordings to transform boring written standards into watchable/listenable multimedia segments that users can view at their own pace. Want to overcome user avoidance to reading standards? Get rid of the reading!

Also consider ease of use in the equation. Even a video won't make users warm up to an overly complex standard procedure. My benchmark is that if I can't explain/show a procedure to a normal CAD user in five minutes or less, the procedure is either too complicated or not automated enough. Use your own judgment about ease of use, but do try to adhere to the five-minute rule, and you'll chip away at user objections.

Tip. Give some incentive for your users to go through your standards, such as a $5 Starbucks card or a $25 Best Buy gift card for anyone who aces a quiz on the new standards. It's amazing what people will do for a small reward, and you'll get some positive peer pressure working for you as users see that comprehending the standards wins them accolades.

Changing User Work Methods
When users grumble about changing the way they work, they really mean they feel they're being slowed down. After all, if you show people a way to work faster, they're happy to learn, but slowing them down is another issue. The CAD manager must strive to create standards that offer the user a faster route to work completion.

Therefore, always ask yourself this question: Can you follow your own standards and get your job done as quickly as not using them? If not, you know that users will avoid the standards! Use automation, programming, or whatever tools you need to make following standards faster than not following them. Putting yourself in the user's chair will provide real insight into working with standards.

Tip. Start a suggestion box where users can contribute ideas about how to speed up CAD work processes, and then follow through by incorporating the good ideas into your standards. When you take user input seriously and embrace good user ideas, users feel a sense of ownership and are more likely to follow the rules precisely because they helped create them.

Management Support
Finally, if you adhere to the two guidelines above and users STILL aren't following standards, then it is time to call in your senior management and ask for help in enforcement. You will have already gone to great lengths to make standards easy to read and use, so your management should be willing to help.

Expect that managers will ask questions about why they should get involved with the CAD standards enforcement problem. When they ask, be ready to show increased efficiency, lower error rates, and smoother processes as a result. When management sees that CAD standards can save them labor dollars, they'll be motivated to help you enforce.

Tip . Repeat the following mantra to anyone who'll listen: CAD standards are simply a way to get everyone in sync, cut errors, and save the company valuable time and money as we all work smarter, not harder.

Summing Up
It is my hope that this multipart series on CAD standards has served as an informative guide through the entire process of standards management from conception to enforcement. CAD standards should help you create an environment that is more coordinated, less chaotic, and, ultimately, more productive. I wish you all the best in tackling your CAD standards with renewed vigor and welcome your questions on the subject. You can reach me via my email link at

In the next edition of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll kick off my analysis of the 2007 CAD Manager's Survey with an overview of some interesting market factors. I'll also ask all of you to give me your input on the survey as well as answer a couple more CAD standards questions. Until then.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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