Your Personal Learning Plan — Part 122 Feb, 2023 By: Robert Green
CAD Manager's Column: As a CAD manager, it’s as important to stay on top of new technology and processes as it is to manage your workload. How to start? Make a list of what you need to know to help you and your team perform and get management’s approval.
As CAD managers, we spend our time training and assisting others so they can be productive. But, how much time do you spend training and assisting yourself so you can be as productive as possible? Do you spend so much time stuck in a vortex of problems that you’ve lost track of how to better yourself? If so, then it is time to craft a personal learning plan that’ll get you back on track.
In the next few issues of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, we’ll explore how to build a learning plan that aligns with optimizing your CAD management job functions. The goal will be to acquire better skills that make you more effective, more marketable, and less stressed. Interested? Here goes.
Image source: gustavofrazao/stock.adobe.com.
Remember the adage: You’ve got to plan the work, then work the plan?” Learning is no different. So, to start we need to build a training topic list. This list is not for your users, it is for you, and should include at least the following:
- A list of topics you need to learn about.
- The resources you’ll need to learn about your topics.
- Financing required for your training resources.
- Time allocated to do your learning.
Now, let’s work our way through the plan, consider how to get it approved, and draw a few conclusions as we do so.
The Topic List is Key
Of course, you probably have an idea of the topics you’d like to learn about, but the better thing to consider is: What topics does your company need you to learn about? Put another way, what topics would your boss pay for you to learn and then allow you to spend time implementing? The goal will be to get your boss to approve your learning plan up front.
Here's an example scenario: Bill has a background in construction and has become the CAD manager over the years. He’s good with basic CAD tools and has a solid working knowledge of the BIM tools at his company. He has a good relationship with his users but even they can see that new project workloads require a lot more coordination and Bill is struggling. His lack of experience with these coordination issues is starting to negatively impact jobs and cause errors that never used to be a problem for him and the team.
What do you think Bill’s learning topic list should include?
Topics = Needs
If Bill creates a learning topic list to address company needs, he’s going to learn new skills, become more valuable to the organization, and become more employable — which is a win-win-win scenario. Here’s how I’d advise Bill to build his list:
- List the specific skills for coordination and interchange between project software tools that he needs training for (and where he might obtain that training).
- Study how other companies have solved these problems to learn what works and what doesn’t (and what groups or conferences he could join/attend to gain that knowledge).
- Study how to best standardize these processes and train company users so future projects flow smoothly.
This learning topics list gives Bill several advantages:
- He will become much more proficient with project software tools.
- His ability to forecast problems that could complicate projects will be greatly enhanced simply because he knows more about how to coordinate the tools.
- He will be able to lead users through new processes proactively rather than having to react to problems.
- Management will be more confident that projects will move faster and rework will be reduced as Bill’s new knowledge takes hold.
- The knowledge gained will be disseminated to other users via standards so everyone gets smarter, not just Bill.
Now take Bill’s story, substitute your own problems, and build your own learning topics list.
Now, Ask the Boss
Now that you’ve got a learning plan and a topic list, it is time to approach your boss about it. As you make your case, remember that your boss will only be interested in investing training time and money in you if it will ultimately benefit the company to do so. So, the burden is now on you to ask your training needs to your boss in a way that makes sense financially for the company. Try it like this:
“We’re seeing more and more need to coordinate CAD, BIM, and visualization deliverables in our projects and, to be honest, we’re having some problems dealing with it. I feel unprepared to handle some of these tasks but I’ve identified some training resources that will get me up to speed if you can approve them. I’m not asking for general training, but rather targeted training that will help me and my CAD/BIM users perform more efficiently. I’m essentially asking you to invest in my skill set so I can make everyone around me more productive and profitable. Could we talk about this more and I can show you what I’ve planned?”
It is hard to imagine any boss saying no to the request when framed in this manner, but you probably won’t get a 100% yes answer, either. It is likely that you’ll be asked to pull your plan together to show your boss and explain what the costs will be. Your next statement should be to set expectations for what comes next like this:
“Excellent! Thank you. I’ll get a one-page summary for you with some cost numbers and explain everything when we next talk. I’m excited about this. This is going to really help all our CAD/BIM users to reduce errors and get our projects flowing better.”
A Few Conclusions
Let’s go back to Bill’s example and take stock of what he’s accomplished so far:
- He’s identified problems that impact ongoing projects.
- He knows what he needs to learn to fix the problems.
- He has a rough plan on how to learn from others who’ve had similar problems.
- He’s thinking about how to deploy what he learns to others.
- He’s approached management in a way that makes financial sense.
Do you think Bill’s management is impressed with him at this point? They should be. In fact, they should be asking Bill to get a plan in place for acquiring new knowledge and putting it into practice.
Bill is now in a great position to get the training and help he needs. Now its your turn to be like Bill.
Get On It
Now, it is time for you to use Bill’s example above to identify your core problems and build your own learning plan and one page summary that you can take to your management for approval. Of course, you will need to do some research on training resources and prepare for the questions you know your boss will ask you, but I bet you’ve got a good idea on how to do so already.
In the next edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll show you how to list your learning topics, prioritize them, and present them in a way that your boss will love. Until then.