Making Your Checklist Stick23 Jan, 2007 By: Robert Green
Getting your CAD users to help you achieve your goals can advance both your own position and theirs.
In the last issue of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I encouraged you to build a New Year's Checklist of action items to keep you on task during 2007. While some items on your check list are strictly your tasks (revising your budget, reducing your personal overhead), many more should be things that affect all the CAD users in your group or company (ending inefficient practices, making positive changes, etc.)
In this edition I'll give you some hints for staying on task with your checklist in the areas where users can help you do so. My logic is that when you involve more people and publish your checklist for others to see, you are compelled to stick to the list and, therefore, achieve more results faster. Here goes.
Communicate Better with Users
As a manager you can be effective only when you articulate your mission to your users. After all, if your users don't agree with your checklist items for the New Year, they're not likely to follow you, right? So the first order of business becomes getting the word out concerning the items you've placed on your checklist and then building a critical mass of support. Then, and only then, will you be able to make the changes you've tasked yourself with.
I've found that the communication methods that work best involve direct interaction (as opposed to email) and a little bit of team building. Here are a few examples I've used that work well.
Power Lunch. This is a group of users who get together once a month over pizza and talk through how to make CAD operations better. To really make these sessions work, set an agenda beforehand so everybody knows what you'll be talking about and what you're trying to accomplish. (Hint: Make sure the agenda matches some of the issues you have on your Action Item list.) As the power lunch progresses, try to emerge with some action items that users will take responsibility for so you'll achieve tangible results. The power lunch format really helps people get involved and take some ownership. Not everyone will participate, but those who do will reward you by helping you focus on your task list.
Lunch and Learn. A derivative of the power lunch that is more training or task driven. Pick a topic to talk about and explain why it is needed and why you are implementing the idea. You can take questions and make the session somewhat interactive, but you're driving the agenda in a lunch and learn.
Quick Morning Huddle. Pick a time early in the morning when everybody should be at work -- say 8 a.m. -- and have a very brief meeting. At this meeting you should set out goals for the day or week and rattle off any action items that the group needs to work on. Morning huddle sessions can be done in 5 to 10 minutes and really tend to fire people up for the work day. Admittedly, this technique works best in departments with a lot of CAD users over which you have scheduling control, so some of you may not be able to use it.
Create Assistants When You Can
As you communicate with users more and more, I'll bet somebody will step up and want to be more involved in your CAD management initiatives. And when somebody steps up and offers to help, make sure you take them up on the offer! After all, if people want to help you while bettering themselves at the same time, you'd be crazy not to use them.
Below are some guidelines that I've found helpful for building good assistants:
Consider the expertise. What is the user good at? How could they best help you? How much time will it cost you to train the person in the tasks they'll help you with?
Delegate tasks from your list. Make sure that your new assistant works on items taken from your task list. That way you'll be able to tackle your list faster!
Aim for a moderate stretch. If a new assistant is a competent AutoCAD user with no customization experience, don't assign them a massive VBA project. Instead, consider assigning them revisions or updates for some palettes so they'll learn some customization but won't take up too much of your time in the process.
As you build your pool of assistant CAD managers you'll be making those around you smarter while you cross items off your task list. And as you do so, you'll build support for your ideas, build allies in the CAD management trenches and show your boss how effective you are at team building.
Review Action Items with Your Boss
Now that you're humming along on your action item list, communicating well with your users and building CAD talent around you, why not brag on yourself a little by going over those accomplishments with your boss? As you go through the list, your boss should be impressed with what you've done and recognize you for the valuable asset that you are.
Seize the moment during this meeting and ask your boss what else you could be doing to maximize productivity. Explain that you know you don't see everything that could be improved so you would really like to have some outside opinions, particularly from upper management's perspective, to help you get bigger and better ideas on your list. I think you'll find that this level of dialog with your boss will really make your stock rise as management understands that you're saving them money by diligently working your task list. I admit that these changes take a while, but if you use your task list to maintain constant dialog with your boss, it will happen.
All too often we find ourselves building task lists or setting goals and ultimately not achieving them. By creating your New Year's checklist, you've taken the first step toward making things better in your CAD management environment. I hope that by using the tips set forth in this newsletter, you'll be able to convert your great ideas into reality.
If you have any other tips you'd like to share, please email me and I'll include some items in the next issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter. Until then.