Make Your CAD Resolutions Stick, Part 1

26 Jan, 2010 By: Robert Green

Are you determined to establish new standards in the New Year? Here are the strategies you need to see your plans through.

In the last edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I made some predictions for the coming months and shared a few resolutions to help guide CAD managers through 2010. In the next two installments, I'm going to focus on strategies that will help you keep those resolutions. I hope you'll find the process thought-provoking. Here goes.

CAD Standards

Among the resolutions I've advocated for 2010 are two that address CAD standards:

Resolution 1: Use standards and standardized work procedures to get all users on the same page and reduce rework.

Resolution 2: To garner senior management support for standards, stress that standards equal savings.

So how can we meet these resolutions with minimum effort, get users to follow standards, and have management help us enforce those standards? These are the key questions that have vexed CAD managers as long as I've been in the business. Allow me to share some strategies that have worked for me over the years.

Step 1: Get Users to Gripe

Encourage your users to complain about the CAD problems they have on a day-to-day basis. Listen closely to that griping to discern which complaints are actually standards problems in disguise.

Here's an example I've heard a number of times:

Complaint: Every time I open files from the [fill in the blank] department, I always have to rename all their layers and it takes me forever!

Now it is obvious that the root cause of this complaint is either a lack of layering standards, or that people aren't following existing standards. The trick is going to be gathering and analyzing these standards-based complaints.

Step 2: Correlate Complaints

As you collect complaints, ask yourself the following questions and see if any patterns emerge:

  • Are complaints limited to certain departments, or they coming from all departments?
  • Which complaints could you fix by making easy standards changes?
  • Which complaints could you fix via programming or automation using programs, custom toolbars, folder organization, etc.?
  • Which complaints are caused by interaction with outside suppliers or customers, and how could those problems be solved via standardization?

Take some time to perform the analysis and correlation I've described above so you will know exactly which areas of your company are suffering the most. Now that you know where the standardization-related problems lie, you can figure out where to start solving them.

Step 3: Achieve Critical Mass

Now go to the department that experiences the most standards-related problems, and convince the people who are complaining the loudest to join you in a new push for standardization — because it's the only way to make their problems go away. As you go through this phase of achieving critical mass, you should communicate your efforts to the senior managers in the department so they know that you're simply trying to improve efficiency and reduce user problems.

If you perform these tasks correctly you should now be operating in a department that actually wants to get standards in place.

Step 4: Do It!

Now that you've got people's attention and they're willing to embrace standardization, get started quickly before they become distracted or bored with the idea. Here are some hints that have always helped me get things rolling:

  • Pick the easiest problems to solve and handle them first.
  • Create training cheat sheets that explain how the standards you're putting in place will help your users. If you're installing new features like toolbars or new programs, be sure your cheat sheet explains how to use them.
  • Understand that the culture shift that occurs when users change how they work can be stressful, and answer questions patiently as the change is enacted.

My goals in putting new standards in place are to make changes at a pace that people can keep up with and explaining the benefits as I go. By starting with easily implemented changes, training as we progress, and responding to questions and concerns, I achieve all these goals.

Step 5: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

When you're done with your first department, move on to the next most problematic department and use the same strategies to improve operations. Keep moving through the company until you've solved most of the standards-related problems that users complained about in the first place.

Be aware that this process is never complete, but ongoing! I think you'll find that people will be so happy to have their problems solved that they'll come to you with more issues in the future — thus providing further opportunities to use standardization.

Summing Up

Keeping up with CAD standards is a never-ending struggle, but one that becomes easier to sell and manage when you use the strategies I've outlined. The key is to make sure your users know you're trying to make their lives easier and that your upper management sees your standards as instruments of cost savings.

So keep your New Year's resolution to use CAD standards to your advantage, and you'll be rewarded with happier users and management. And when everybody's happy, you'll be a happier CAD manager. Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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