Lay Down the Law on CAD Standards, Part 3

23 Jun, 2009 By: Robert Green

Take a diagnostic quiz and learn how to tackle problems related to standards and training.

In the last two installments of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I talked about laying down the law as it pertains to CAD standards and work methodologies in your workplace. I hope you've been able to complete the planning exercises I set forth and have decided on your first-strike items to get the process started.

In the third and final part of this series, I'll focus on how to keep your company culture disciplined and standardized after the initial shock and awe have subsided.

Diagnose Your Culture
Before we go any further, I'd like you to answer a few diagnostic questions for me. Think through each question and answer each question on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being "No, I strongly disagree" and 5 being "Yes, I strongly agree."

Question 1. When you've updated CAD standards in the past, have you found that users don't follow the new standards?

Question 2. Do your users ever complain that they don't understand your standards?

Question 3. Has your training budget been slashed?

Question 4. Have you stopped training people because you're too pressed with other job duties?

Your total score will be somewhere between 4 and 20. Add up your score; you'll need it for the next step.

Understanding Your Score
If you scored four points, congratulations! You work in a company where everyone follows standards, understands procedures, and is well trained -- and where you have plenty of time to do your job.

If you scored 20 points, you have my sympathies. You work in a company where complacency has set in, users take shortcuts around procedures, nobody gets trained, and you're overcommitted.

If you scored anywhere between 4 and 20 points, you work in a company that represents the great majority that experience some degree of standards and training problems. The key for dealing with these circumstances is to recognize that you probably have standards and training problems that are combining to form a culture in which rules can be ignored somewhat because users are unaware of the best ways to do things.

Assuming you are not in the ideal case where everything is humming along perfectly, what should you do?

Combining Standards and Training
In my first two installments, I recommended that you perform a housecleaning and standards-violation sweep through your company. This gets your users' attention and your management's blessing and presents a prime opportunity to change attitudes and work processes if you are willing to persist.

The short questionnaire told you whether your problems are standards related, training related, or both. Regardless, the key is to make your standards and training reinforce each other, then to put in place a program that minimizes the demands on your time.

Here are some approaches I've used to achieve results in the past:

Update standards. If standards for a project are insufficient to control current work practices, update them! Don't worry about writing a novel, just get the minimum amount of information required to understand the standard. I like to imagine what I would say in a training class to explain the standard in plain language.

Design the training to sell the standard. Next think about delivering a training course that explains your standard in 15-30 minutes. Anticipate which questions might arise and develop the most simple answers possible. Prepare a set of example files that illustrate concrete examples of how the standards will affect your users in their work.

Readjust the standard if necessary. If you can't explain a standard in your training easily, maybe the standard itself is too complicated. Rework the standard as required.

Conduct the training. In the least time possible, run a training class and record it so others can repeat the class later. If you can't conduct training, make a recording and let everyone watch it on his or her own time. Note that I don't recommend this last approach unless it's your only option, because it is too easy for users to skip the training and continue with their old habits.

Observing Change
A funny thing will happen as you conduct training based on your standards: People actually will learn the right way to do things. And as you think about how to train users to follow your standards, you'll simplify your standards. You'll see people realize that following the standards will enable them to finish their work more quickly! When you've reached this point, you no longer will have to lay down the law because users will actually want to follow the law to be more productive.

This feedback loop of standards evaluation and training can be performed with minimum time demands, but it does take some commitment on your part. After all, users aren't going to follow unless you lead, right?

Summing Up
We are living in a unique time now. The global economy has slowed and companies want to get lean and mean. I hope you can use the concepts I've outlined in this three-part series to take control of your CAD environment, clean house, and promote a new attitude based on organization and standards. Here's hoping that you'll never have to lay down the law again.

Until next time.