CAD Manager's Newsletter #121

26 Jan, 2005 By: Robert Green

CAD Management Action Plan, Part 1

Chart your course now to help ensure a successful 2005

In the last edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I set out some CAD management resolutions and promised that we'd begin compiling an action plan for this new year.

My hope is that we all can have a more successful and stress-free year by planning a course of action and using our New Year's resolutions to guide our approach to our job.

Plan Your Year
It seems like a lot to ponder at the beginning of the year, but 2005 will be gone before you know it. Unless we want to simply get through this year in what I call "firefighter mode," we've got to map out a yearlong plan so we can track our progress. If I don't have a list of tasks to keep me on track and motivated, it becomes much easier to miss details and much harder to stay focused.

Most CAD managers will need to account for the following major activities in any given year:

  • Creation/modification of your budget
  • Creation/delivery of a training program
  • Staff development and evaluation
  • File/data management concerns
  • Evaluation and deployment of software upgrades
  • Upkeep/modernization of CAD-related hardware
  • Normal technical and production-related support tasks
  • Minimizing or eliminating last-minute crises through planning

Planning ahead for these basic CAD manager functions is a major step in getting this year off to a good start.

Planned vs. Crisis Management
Please note that I put "eliminating crisis management" on my list of items to plan for. Unless you want to spend a lot of your time running around like a crazy person trying to quash a never-ending stream of CAD crises, you'll need to plan ahead. My reasoning for putting crisis management on the annual planning list is as follows.

First: If an item is on your list, you'll tend to remember it more and think about it more critically.

Second: Getting stuck in crisis-management mode keeps you from being the proactive problem solver your company needs you to be. What better way to demonstrate a proactive approach than by tackling crisis management head-on?

Third: If you're constantly under the stress of dealing with the latest calamity, you're sending a subliminal message that you can't deal with problems until they become a crisis. Make no mistake: Operating in crisis mode undermines your career-advancement possibilities!

I know it seems like a Catch-22, but to get out of crisis-management mode you have to plan ahead and break the cycle of CAD management by crisis response. If it requires extra planning time now to eliminate crisis management in the future, consider it time well-invested in your sanity and career potential.

Guidelines for Planning
Once you understand the incentive for planning ahead, you might want some hints on how to view the major components of the CAD manager's job from a proactive planning perspective. Here are step-by-step details for how to carry out an action plan for the new year:

1. Creation/modification of your budget. Does any other document relate more to your success in any given year than your budget? Your budget determines whether you can fund a training program, whether you can buy or upgrade software, whether you'll get that new plotter, how much of a raise you can give your employees and much more. Get the picture?

No matter how much you think and plan for this year, nothing will happen if you don't budget for the resources you'll need to do the job. I recommend creating a spreadsheet and reviewing it constantly so you can jot down any thoughts on a moment's notice. Don't think of budgeting as something you do once a year because you have to — consider it the number-one planning activity that will determine your success for the coming year.

2. Creation/delivery of a training program. Will you need to train users on new software this year? Will you be implementing new CAD standards or work procedures that will necessitate training? If so, how much time will you need, who will create the training materials, where will you conduct the training and will the users' managers allow them attend?

As you can see, running a training program requires a lot of coordination and planning because it affects so many schedules. Time spent in training is time that is not billable, so also be aware that many managers view training as a luxury more than a necessity. As you plan for your training program this year, keep a keen eye on providing topical coverage that brings tangible results with a minimum disruption to work schedules — and always, always,ALWAYS try to get management support before you publish your training schedule.

3. Staff development and evaluation. Can you think of a better way to address pressing problems than by having a capable and adept staff that is well-equipped to assist you? By planning to reserve a percentage of your management time to improving your staff, you'll accomplish several key objectives:

  • You'll be able to work on higher-order problems while your extended staff can be deployed in crisis situations. When a nasty problem comes up, you'll have several people who can pitch in and solve the problem quickly rather than becoming overwhelmed on your own.
  • By providing a challenge to your staff and sharing some management responsibility, you'll figure out which staff members will step up and take charge when needed — particularly in tough situations.
  • By developing an extended staff, you'll know that your company is in good hands when you need to be out of the office. And make no mistake, if you ever expect to be promoted, you need to demonstrate that you can build the staff that will eventually take your place.

Building your staff's collective expertise takes time and planning on your part, but you'll be rewarded many times over when crunch time hits. Make staff development a key plank in your action plan this year and see how quickly it pays off!

Wrapping Up
In the next issue of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll conclude our look at the CAD management action plan for 2005.

Throughout 2005, I'll be providing in-depth coverage of major CAD managerial tasks in my CAD Manager column in Cadalyst magazine. If you don't receive the print issue, you can check for my latest column on the current month's Table of Contents. Or better yet, subscribe to Cadalyst Digital Edition, the electronic version of the print magazine.

CAD Manager's Newsletter will supplement my monthly writings with extended coverage of certain topics as well as reports on relevant industry events as they happen.

Your input is always welcome — just e-mail me at Until next time.