CAD Manager's Newsletter #78 (Jan. 16, 2003)

15 Jan, 2003 By: Robert Green

It just seems to be a fact that, over time, things get disorganized. The entropy phenomenon--the inevitable procession towards chaos and disorder--can manifest itself in CAD departments in the form of lost files, poor archive-control, and a number of other problems that cause rework and inefficiency. So should we resign ourselves to entropy? Or, is there hope for our digital workplace?

In this issue, I'll begin exploring methodologies to help you clean up your CAD department while addressing the root causes of disorganization. Along the way, I'll throw in some useful hints you can use to raise your management profile as you undertake this digital housecleaning task.

Take Stock First

I usually tell my clients who are undertaking such a project to consider why things got messy in the first place and to then attack those problems. After all, why spend a lot of time cleaning up a mess if the mess will only return shortly? I find that, during a thorough cleanup, you eventually come to see your department's organizational weaknesses. So, if you embrace the process instead of viewing it as a chore, you should be able to improve your department's organizational processes.

You've likely heard the phrase "cause-and-effect analysis" in the context of problem solving. I've devised a derivative approach I'd like to call the problem-cause-solution (PCS) methodology. Most CAD managers can list their problems fairly easily. Once the causes are listed, the solutions tend to follow.

The sequence goes as follows:

  • list a nagging problem your department has;
  • quickly list the perceived cause(s) of the problem;
  • quickly list your idea(s) of how to solve the problem.

I advocate listing causes and solutions "quickly" because rapid-fire brainstorming tends to get more ideas on the table, as people are less likely to be concerned with company politics and more likely to be direct and honest.

PCS at Home

Here's a problem we've been through in my household (I wonder if any of you have ever experienced similar problems).

Problem: the kitchen floor is always dirty.
Cause: the kids track stuff in on their shoes and mess up the floor.
Solution: have the kids remove their shoes and leave them on the porch.

Prior to using the PCS (problem, cause, solution) method to solve the "dirty kitchen floor" problem, there were constant arguments about who should clean the floor. Upon further review, we noted how much time we spent cleaning the floor; my wife and I seemed to be the ones doing the cleaning even though we weren't the ones making the mess. We solved it using the PCS method and cut the floor-cleaning labor by about 75 percent. It took only a simple modification in the kid's behavior. We weren't being lazy about cleaning, but we weren't diligent in preventing the mess in the first place either.

A CAD Example

Here's a problem that many CAD managers face:

Problem: Users stored drawings all over the place, ignoring good filing-practices that the CAD manager had tried to put in place. As a result the organization lost track of changes and did way too much rework.

A quick brainstorming session might lead to some of the following probable causes (feel free to add to the list):

  • users weren't paying attention to procedures;
  • there were no consequences for NOT following procedures;
  • the CAD manager always takes care of it.

Another quick brainstorming session might lead to some of the following solutions (again, feel free to add to the list):

  • back up and delete all "renegade" files periodically (to see who screams);
  • make sure management understands the cost of non-compliance;
  • make the offenders fix the problem rather than fixing it for them.

Can you see parallels between this case and the case of my dirty floor? I hope you can.

It Does Work!

I'll admit that changing procedures in a CAD department is more complicated than having the kids remove their shoes, but the two approaches are quite similar. By using the PCS method, you'll likely determine that much of the cleaning and organizational work you do is the result of a lack of adherence to good work practices.

I recommend keeping some sort of log handy so you can jot down your thoughts easily. As you think more in terms of what CAUSES problems, you'll inherently focus on the best SOLUTIONS to those problems. Be sure to get others involved in the brainstorming process. After all, those who help you identify the problems, causes, and solutions are extremely likely to help you make the changes later on.

Let's Start Cleaning Up

Your challenge now is to consider your organizational problems using my PCS methodology and prepare for cleaning your CAD department. This time, though, you'll be armed with some solid ideas of how to clean the house--and keep it clean! In the next issue I'll provide some useful strategies to efficiently move you along as you clean your CAD house.

Please let me know any useful strategies you've found for keeping your CAD department running smoothly by emailing me at I'll share the best reader ideas in upcoming issues of the newsletter.