CAD Management: Managing More Than Just CAD

August 2nd, 2011

So it has come to this. After years of hard work and being a team player, you are the new CAD manager! You have finally moved into a position where you can help your coworkers have a better workplace and you can start to make a difference. Let the old regime of terror and cruelty be forgotten and make room for your new regime of terror and cruelty. Well, maybe a little less terror and a lot less cruelty. There’s a new CAD manager on the block!

The New CAD Manager

Now that you are the CAD manager, there are some important things to take care of before you can settle into the big seat. In some offices, there is a long competitive process to choose a new CAD manager among several applicants. In other offices the new CAD manager is as surprised as anyone by the promotion. However it happened, you are now the manager and that means someone else who wanted to be the CAD manager is not. Not addressing this important person who almost had the position is a bad idea.

Being the new CAD manager doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels!

Do yourself a favor and take some time to let everyone else know you appreciate his or her support. Remember, your old coworkers are your new support staff. Treat them as valuable team members and let them know that you are still the same person you were before. Sit down and have that morning cup of coffee with your CAD friends and go out to lunch just as you did before. Let your former coworkers know that your move up does not mean that you have moved on.

Being the Boss

While it is important to keep ties to your former coworkers, eventually the time comes when you have to be the boss. As the new CAD manager, a huge part of your job is going to involve the delegation of work. You have to assign work to people, have them perform tasks, or ask for any number of other things to keep the CAD department moving forward. But don’t forget, when asking someone to do something, do just that—ask.

You will be amazed how far a simple “please” or “can you do me a favor” will get you. Remember how you did or did not appreciate being treated when you were asked to do something. Everyone appreciates a little common courtesy. Treat your support staff with respect and show them you are willing to get your hands dirty to get the job out the door. Your former coworkers will respect you as a CAD professional and as the new CAD manager even more for it. Always remember, your attitude is the beginning of the CAD department morale.

If your office does not have a weekly general staff meeting, or even if it does, a weekly CAD department meeting can be a great thing. A great many business professionals—Seth Godin, for example—advocate “frequent and immediate” feedback. By giving coworkers feedback soon after a task is completed it is easier to relate that input to the task at hand. This sort of frequent interaction can help improve the efficiency of the work being done and help with department communication.

A weekly CAD meeting is a great way to let the rest of the CAD department know what is going on, what jobs are coming up, and to share thoughts and ideas in general. This could be the best 15 minutes a week you can spend as a new CAD manager!

Being the Peacemaker

Every office should work as a well-oiled machine, with each person doing his or her part to make things work smoothly. In most cases, things will work just fine and everyone in the office will go about their business blissfully. But there will come a time when you have to pay attention to some parts of the machine because they just aren’t playing nice. Being the peacemaker can be a hard job. That is probably why they nickname a revolver “The Peacemaker.”

Don’t wait until things have escalated to a point where people can no longer work alongside one another. When you first begin to notice a problem, try to pay close attention. CAD professionals are adults and will usually settle matters just fine among themselves. However, should animosities linger more than a day or two, it’s time for the CAD manager to get involved. Sit down with the involved parties and listen to each side. Try to be fair in resolving a little squabble. Look for a solution that is going to make everyone at least somewhat happy while not playing favorites. When it’s all done you should have team members who are getting along (at least a little better) and everyone should understand that they are an important part of the team.

You Work for Them Too

Being the CAD manager isn’t all about sitting at the big desk or getting the office. No, there are plenty of small things that have to be addressed for any CAD department to run smoothly. From managing time off to asking people to work overtime, the workflow requires constant attention and adjustment.

Above we mentioned the benefits that can come from “frequent and immediate” feedback. We also mentioned CAD department meetings. When a good CAD manager combines these practices it becomes apparent that he or she works for his support staff as much as they do for him!

Meeting with your CAD department is the best way to stay on top of tasks and projects.

You should take the time in your CAD department meetings to hear what is helping or hindering the individuals on your staff in completing their goals. Maybe one drafter says he could not finish the cross-section sheets because the topo survey never came in. Perhaps another drafter could not send out production plan sets because there was no toner in the plotter.

As the CAD manager, you should discover what your drafters need in order to complete their work, and then you have to make those things happen. Call the surveyor and find out where the topo is. Call the supplier and get the toner for the plotter delivered ASAP. Remember that your work for your support staff as much as they work for you! By working together, your CAD department will reach new heights of productivity.

Being the CAD manager can be a great achievement for the veteran CAD professional. Adding the complex tasks of work delegation, project delivery timetables, and personnel management could be just the challenge for the CAD professional who thinks he has seen it all. Whether you applied to be the CAD manager or the position just fell into your lap, make the most of your new position. Take a few chances, make a few changes, and turn the CAD department into your CAD department. But, most of all, remember CAD management is about managing more than just CAD.

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About the Authors

Curt Moreno

Curt Moreno

Based in Houston, Texas, Curt Moreno is a CAD Coordinator for a civil engineering firm and the owner and editor of the Kung Fu Drafter blog. He began using AutoCAD with Release 10 and has spent the past 20+ years working with various Autodesk products including AutoCAD, Civil 3D, Map 3D and SketchBook Designer. Curt is also a freelance content creator, featured Autodesk University speaker, and training content developer. In his spare time Curt writes, games and spends time with his dog and horses.

 

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