CAD Management: Bootstrapping

Last month, I wrote about ways to motivate your staff.  The article outlined extrinsic and intrinsic ways that CAD Managers should use to move the people around them toward action.  This month, I’d like to talk about your personal motivation and ask: what gets you going?. After all, a CAD Manager must be motivated himself in order to drive his team toward a common goal.

What makes you get started, move forward, and keep going?  Does it take outside influences to get your motor running?  Do you need visible incentives in front of you to get your wheels turning, or is there something inside you that pushes you to where you want to go?

Extrinsic motivations, like the ones discussed in the last article, may work for your efforts.  Everyone needs external things to encourage movement.  Some of them are obvious, like a paycheck, advancement, recognition, and opportunities.  Others are not so obvious, like access to resources, exposure to new technology, and the capability to work under less supervision.  It is important to note that in all cases, someone else controls all of these motivating elements.  They have the reins and can allow or refuse them based on their own set of motivational tools.  

This makes incentives a funny thing. When others control the external factors that get you moving, you remain at the beck and call of others as they control the enjoyment of your work.  If all you have to make you move forward is some kind of carrot on a stick, then you may be struggling to keep focused, make genuine progress, and achieve greater things.

This brings me to my article title – Bootstrapping.

As outlined on Wikipedia: “The computer term bootstrap began as a metaphor in the 1950s. In computers, pressing a bootstrap button caused a hardwired program to read a bootstrap program from an input unit. The computer would then execute the bootstrap program, which caused it to read more program instructions. It became a self-sustaining process that proceeded without external help from manually entered instructions. As a computing term, bootstrap has been used since at least 1953.”

Technically, a bootstrap is the little hook of leather at the top of a boot that makes it easier to pull on your boots.  This strap on the boot turned into a computer metaphor when, as legend has it, programmers at IBM tied to the procedure of pushing a button that caused a computer to load a minimal amount of code that began a self processing that increased in complexity as the computer started or restarted (rebooted) in a clean, new startup process.

Wikipedia goes on to say, “Bootstrapping, or booting, refers to a group of metaphors that share a common meaning: a self-sustaining process that proceeds without external help.”  Here, the metaphor becomes even clearer.

Do you have a bootstrap process that gets you moving?  Do you reboot from time to time when you are having trouble?  Do you have a self-sustaining process the works without external prodding or help?

Some people are self-motivated.  They can identify a task that needs to be done, make a plan on how to complete the task, and then execute this plan toward a common goal.  All of this without hand-holding and a need for others to guide them toward the next step.  Some managers are “Type A” personalities that must be in constant activity.  Others simply have unlimited energy and are always thinking about the next task.  Are you like that?  Can you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps?

Here are some ideas that might help get you moving when things are standing still, time is short, or difficulties are upon you.

1. Plan out the next task.  No matter what you have going, sit down and plan out what will happen next.  While you are thinking about what the next step might be, think about 3-4 steps ahead and what the next project will be.  You should enjoy a successful completion of any task, but fight the urge to just sit around and enjoy the success of completing it. Celebrating your milestones is certainly important, but the closer you get to completing a task, the more you need to be thinking about what will come next.

2. Set deadlines and don’t ignore them.  Maybe you are not motivated because the project schedule is flexible and your deadlines are loose.  Even if there is no timeline, create one.  Set it down on paper or in your online calendar with a reminder that the deadline is coming up.  And when it is getting closer – don’t ignore it.  Act as if everything depends on completing this task and you will avoid having activities linger on your to-do list for weeks or months.

3. Challenge yourself.  Don’t settle for doing the same level of work as you did last time.  When you have a repetitive task, look for ways to do it faster or cheaper next time around.  Even small gains in productivity can provide great benefits to you, your calendar, and your staff.

4. Remember that others are depending on you.  Other people are waiting for you to provide something or complete a task - don’t disappoint them by taking longer than needed. By being efficient, you free your team up for more challenging, interesting, or innovative work in the pipeline.

5. Get some reward rest.  From time to time, do something that recharges your batteries.  This could be a personal hobby, like jogging, fishing, going to the movies, researching a piece of technology, or whatever takes you away from the working world for a few hours.  With your plan for your next steps waiting for you back at your desk, you can step away, reconnect with what truly matters, and reconvene with a clear path for what needs to be done next.

6. Realize that wasting time does not help anyone – especially yourself.  By not making progress on your to-do list, you are just delaying the satisfaction of getting things done and holding up potentially more interesting projects up the line.  Obviously, others are impacted, but mostly it is you that loses out on opportunities that might have been.


Even the best managers struggle with motivation, and there isn’t one path for everyone. By providing personal structure, these tools allow you to enjoy your successes while charting a vital path for the future. So get out there, get moving, and make something happen.

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