Peer-Driven CAD Management Solutions3 Jun, 2014 By: Robert Green
How to succeed as the default CAD manager.
Bypass Politics with Optimization
In the January 22, 2014 edition of Cadalyst's CAD Manager's Newsletter, I introduced a CAD superhero I like to call the Optimizer. Every CAD manager should strive to be like the Optimizer, continually looking for ways to make processes better, faster, and easier for all involved. It stands to reason that pushing for optimization is a good business practice, but it also brings practical political advantages for CAD managers.
There will always be users and project managers who want to do things their own way. Unfortunately, that can sometimes cause problems for other users and departments. When this situation arises, the peer-to-peer CAD manager is in a hopeless position, caught between disagreeing parties with no authority to fix the problem. What's my solution? Don't pick a side — preach optimization instead. Here's an example:
"I don't know whether Julie's layering scheme is better than Jeff's, and I don't have a preference. I do know that using two different schemes is causing problems as we try to generate project PDF documentation. In the interest of optimizing our processes I'd like for us all to agree, right now, on which layering scheme we should use and stick to that decision."
Have this conversation in the presence of the project manager — who is in desperate need of properly generated PDF documentation — and he or she will assume the challenge of determining which layer standard is most appropriate.
Notice the key points of this strategy:
- I demonstrated competency. I know what the issue is, and why it's a problem.
- I was neutral. This allows me to remain on good terms with both Julie and Jeff when this is all over.
- I was reasonable. The only things I asked for were consistency and optimization.
- I pushed for a prompt decision. By resolving the issue now, I won't have to suffer the consequences of this problem again.
In my experience, when you take this approach both Julie and Jeff will respect you, the project manager will thank you, and you'll actually get the problem resolved.
Your Role Can Evolve
You've probably noticed that many of the peer management strategies I've outlined are interrelated. For example, when users and departments view you as competent, they ask you to help solve their problems, and when you solve those problems you'll be perceived as even more competent. Keep at it and your reputation will surely grow. This cumulative buildup of credibility among users, project managers, and company departments may evenually reach other branch offices — or even the corporate level.
As you gain more stature and credibility, you may find yourself becoming more and more central to the CAD management in your company. As a result, your senior management team may come to value you more as a CAD manager than as an architect or engineer or whichever type of CAD user you are. I know this is true, because it is exactly what happened to me!
When you reach this point, you may be able to make the career leap into a more traditional CAD manager's role if you choose to pursue it. If you do want to move in that direction, keep that career goal in mind during every user interaction or problem-solving session you participate in to help motivate yourself to communicate, teach, and optimize as much as possible.
I hope you've found these ideas for building credibility and leadership credentials useful for operating in a peer-driven CAD management environment. I think you'll find that if you focus on these concepts you'll spend more time being successful and less time fighting problems that you don't have the authority to fix in the first place.
I'd also like to point out that CAD managers who do have full authority can still benefit from using these peer-driven strategies to create an environment where users want to follow their well-defined technical leadership. Until next time.