CAD Management: Betwixt and Between

November 28th, 2010

Betwixt is a word not often used. It is of Old English origin, but it does not appear in most people's vocabulary except in the phrase "betwixt and between," which actually comes from the old South in the United States. It means that you are neither one nor the other - that you are in the middle. The phrase has often been associated with an unresolvable situation.

CAD managers live in a world that sits between other things. Managers position themselves to move from chaos to control. Between upper management and the front line worker. Betwixt standardization and disarray.

It is a position that sometimes remains unresolved. You are pressing toward unification and increased production and others are pressing toward getting the job done no matter what the files look like. You are looking for more support and others are thinking that you may not even be needed. You are looking to empower and yet few empower you.

Firms today run lean and mean. They want more done with less. They look for speed and quality. The want to save money and yet you may need to spend some. They want everything under control but they provide few resources to make that happen. This is the "in-between" world in which CAD managers must operate.

Positioned in the center point of CAD production for the firm is the CAD manager, who personally carries out two roles in particular: stabilizing the process by framing the work and encouraging change by creating positive dissatisfaction. These two things are created by the CAD manager to maintain a positive tension between the two. One calls for locking in processes and the other calls for changing them. One calls for strict adherence to rules and the other encourages changing them.

These two are in constant state of play and the CAD manager must hold both ideas at the same time. If one dominates the other then both will suffer.

Stabilizing the process by framing the work

CAD managers frame their firms' work by making particular decisions, uncovering issues, and establishing the context for everyone else’s working in CAD. They work through the standards process to create guideline, restrictions, unifying processes, and overall procedures that ensure unified creation, editing, and output of all CAD files in the firm.

The goal of this effort is to unify the processes of CAD. This allows for streamlining the flow of work because there is a standard method of production. Everyone is doing the same thing in the same order in the same way. It is not flawless, but in general everyone can expect things to be where they should be at the same time, called the same thing, and in the right place within every CAD file. Every File, Every User, Every Project, Every Office, Every Day.

Maintaining this level of devotion to a process is not easy. Those creating and editing files need to be encouraged, reminded, extolled, refreshed, pleaded with, respectfully demanded, jokingly scolded, slightly chided, or whatever else it takes (in a positive way) to keep them focused.

If this controlled environment is lost, it is hard to regain. Momentum builds as people see progress in productivity and they are reciprocal in their efforts to keep things moving in the same direction.

The positive boundaries that are created by the standards create an environment that allows users to focus on the design work rather than the CAD process.

Encouraging change by creating positive dissatisfaction 

Set against the backdrop of the standardized environment that streamlines the CAD efforts is the desire to embrace change to make the environment even better.

Change is required in a CAD environment for several reasons. One is that the process decays over time. Users get lax and allow slight errors to creep in to the process. They think that others won't notice, that the deviations don't really matter or that it won’t impact anyone else. Another issue may be that other firms are marching forward and using new tools and feature in new ways and will eclipse your staff's expertise. Yet another is that software upgrades add new features that make the older ones obsolete.

Whatever the reason, change needs to be encouraged. If your firm stays locked into old processes, old software, or old methods, they will soon be marginalized by their clients and others.

There needs to be a slight indication toward positive dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction must not be negative, bitter, discouraging, or create a less positive environment. It should be an enticement toward moving to the next step because it will be better than what they have now, but not that what they have now is useless or intolerable. You don’t need to say that the current situation is “bad” in order to get better. You are moving from good to better and from better to best. Notice that none of these levels are negative in nature. They are a constant climb toward the best methods your firm can perform.

Creating this environment is a balance between saying “we are really good at this” and saying "we can get better." You do this by making statements like the one above and others like "You know, I think that we can find another way to get this done faster. Can you help me find it?" or "There must be a better way than this. What we are doing is not wrong, but I think it might not be the best."

This encourages users to seek new ways of working. Seeking new features and investigating better methods. Once you find something that is better, you push it out to everyone.

So the circle is constant, you standardize, get everyone doing things the same way, then investigate to find a better way and then move that way into the workflow of all through the standards.

Constantly holding to the standard while you constantly look for better ways of working. Betwixt and Between…

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About the Authors

Mark Kiker

Mark Kiker has more than 25 years of hands-on experience with technology. He is fully versed in every area of management from deployment planning, installation, and configuration to training and strategic planning.  As an internationally known speaker and writer, he is a returning speaker at Autodesk University since 1996.Mark is currently serving as Director of IT for SIATech, a non-profit public charter high school focused on dropout recovery. He maintains two blog sites, www.caddmanager.com and www.bimmanager.com.

 

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