When Your Problem User Is Management12 Jun, 2012 By: Robert Green
Change your CAD management priorities to accommodate financial goals — and use hard facts to make your case.
In the last installment of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I shared a CAD Manager’s Toolbox tip about dealing with problem users that also happen to be your boss. I’ve had a lot of reader responses on this issue — most agreeing with my assessment, and quite a few asking more questions about their specific problems.
In this installment, I thought it would be worthwhile to expand the discussion and share some ideas for dealing with management personnel who make your job tougher than it should be. So if you’ve ever had your standards undermined or your authority undercut by your management team, these strategies are for you. Here goes.
It's All About Perspective
Before we talk about anything else, we need to acknowledge that senior management staffs simply don’t have the same priorities that we technologists do. We tend to think about CAD tools, IT tools, and how to get users up to speed on these tools so that work can get done. This is in stark contrast to senior management staffs, which tend to focus on financials and sales.
In fact, I’ll go ahead and state that management staffs are focused almost exclusively on the following goals:
- Completing projects as soon as possible;
- Minimizing project costs;
- Making customers or clients happy;
- and Ensuring that all projects are profitable.
Once we understand that this is senior management's perspective, we can deduce that the following rules are true:
- Management views anything that supports these goals as good.
- Management views anything that impedes these goals as bad.
What Does It Mean?
Given management’s emphasis, we can see that the CAD manager has to think about how CAD tools and IT technology can help get projects done faster and more profitably, and articulate that to senior management. This is essentially using the first rule above to frame the CAD management debate.
Similarly, we can see that if senior management perceives that CAD management tasks such as standardization, training, or version upgrades slow down the project process or cost the company money, they will view CAD management as a problem rather than an asset. CAD managers in this position are facing management teams that use Rule No. 2!
Given what we now know about management’s philosophy, it is time to take stock of your CAD management program. Ask yourself what CAD management can do to speed up projects, reduce errors and rework, and produce higher-quality work.
Your answers are likely to include the following:
- Standardize CAD practices
- Improve data flow between departments
- Use templatized projects to speed startups
- Facilitate peer review and training to reduce errors.
These are probably things you’re already trying to do, but I’m willing to bet you haven’t brought these items to your management’s attention in the right way.
A Communication Example
There is more than one way to frame a CAD standards discussion with senior management teams — and some are more effective than others. Admittedly, this example is dramatic, but it illustrates methods you should employ to get management’s attention:
Wrong way: "The fact that our architects and engineers don’t follow CAD standards drives me crazy. Everybody has their own way of doing things, and they're never on the same page."
What management thinks: "Well, all our projects get done, and the customer is happy, so what’s the problem? Seems like each department has arrived at a solution that works for them, so why should we waste time trying to change how both departments work when we’re doing fine as is?"
Right way: "Because our architects and engineers fail to use our company layering standards, we waste an average of 34 hours per project reworking our construction documents. At $45 per hour and an average of 20 projects per year, we are spending $30,600 per year (derived from 34 x 20 x 45) because two departments refuse to compromise and use the standard."
What management now thinks: "Yikes! Are we really wasting that much time and money? If you can prove what you’re saying, I’ll go knock some heads together and enforce the rules."
For this approach to work you have to have your facts straight first, and you have to be able to support your numbers, but it is the only way I’ve been able to get senior management’s attention. It works on all types of software, in all types of companies, and in any type of business (with the exception of government agencies, which don’t seem to respond to cost control like the private sector does).
Build a List
Your next challenge is to think of all the CAD management techniques that can be proven to increase efficiency, as in the example above. Get all these ideas consolidated into a spreadsheet and start doing some rough calculations to determine what you can save. As the list starts taking shape, begin talking to your senior management and show them what they could be saving.
Conversely, if you have a CAD management idea that doesn’t save time, doesn’t save money, and doesn’t really grab management’s attention, leave it off the list. Remember, the goals here are for management to support you, empower you, and stop undercutting you. You’ll achieve your goals far more quickly by adjusting your CAD management plan to address management’s financially oriented goals.
As you promote your CAD management agenda to senior management based on cost and profitability metrics, you’ll observe the following gradual changes:
- Management will start to believe your claims
- Management will back you up
- Users will start to see you as a manager
- Project managers will understand you can save them time.
When management has your back, CAD management gets a lot easier. And when CAD management gets easier, you’ll accomplish more and your career will advance. This approach has worked everywhere I’ve ever worked or consulted, and I'm sure it’ll apply at your company as well.
I realize that reshaping your CAD management process into a management-friendly, financial framework is counterintuitive for technical managers, but it is the only way I know of to make your management team an integral part of the CAD management process. And believe me when I say it is far better to have management working with you than against you.
If you have any tips for converting uncooperative management staffs into CAD management allies, I’d love to hear them. Until next time.