CAD Management: Challenges

There are many challenges that impact CAD managers in their duties, roles, and responsibilities. Not only are they challenged with troubleshooting CAD issues, developing CAD standards, enforcing quality control and more, but they have to deal with the people side of things also.

People can often be more disconcerting than technology. In fact, dealing with technology is sometimes easier than dealing with people because technology problems usually have fairly quick answers. People issues can take days, weeks, and months to fix. And sometimes there are no fixes; you just have to put up with the issues. I am not going to focus on the technical issues in this series, but the people side of CAD management.

The challenge of monotony

CAD management can be mundane, slavish, repetitive, lonely, alienating, and sometimes boring. Management of any kind can take on these characteristics. You have to do the same things, day in and day out. You answer the same questions, review the same problems, help the same users, and deal with the same management structure. It can get to you after a while.

Before you start rethinking your whole career or review why you ever got into this line of work, keep in mind that most jobs have some form of repetitive work, drudgery, and the like. I think that the CAD management job is a noble calling. I think that some people are cut out for this kind of work and others may not be. Most CAD managers have a measure of patience, fortitude, dedication, drive, ability, focus, and determination to work in and through the items that I am going to mention.

The challenge of bad decisions

The challenges that you experience can come from yourself. All too often we get in our own way, we step on our own toes, or stumble over our own mistakes. I have miscalculated impacts of change, frustration of users, and indifference of management to my own harm.

You will blow it from time to time, so don’t be too hard on yourself. When you make a mistake, admit your mistake and move on. Apologize as needed, and profusely. Do not try to dig in your heals and not say you're sorry. It is really no big deal if you make a few mistakes now and then. If you make a lot of mistakes, however, it may be time to get some training or coaching from someone who can help.

Decisions are valid if they were made with all of the pertinent input. It may have been a good call at the time, but things change. Regroup, refocus, and move forward.

If the bad decision is made by others, then figure out how to work within that decision to make the best of it. Re-negotiate the decision, if you can, by continuing to talk about the problem and the solution. But be careful -- you can do this for just so long and then the decision maker will become frustrated with your lack of acceptance.

Even when you do not like or agree with a decision, you need to invest effort in making it happen. Take for example the financial decision to not purchase additional software. It may be out of your hands to change this perspective by just talking about it. Upper management may want you to figure out how to do more with less. You need to make sure that they understand the impact of their decision and not insulate them from the outcome. So you need to try to get things done without the software, but remind them, when they complain that it takes longer, that the needed software was not available. Avoid a negative attitude and sarcastic comments. Do not talk the decision down to others. Instead, support the team and make the best of it.

The challenge of budget cuts

The previous challenge leads right into this one, and it is happening to most of us. What do you do when the budget for CAD is cut to the bone? There may be very little you can do about this.

If you asked for your advice on what to cut, then you will have some input into at least what is taken away or scaled back. When this happens, actually before this happens, be ready to provide your list of priorities to be considered. Know what you can live without and what is absolutely needed. Give them a list and start negotiating the cuts.

If you have no input, then just see what can be done to make the best of it. See what you can do to work with what you have. Maybe you could save money in one area to spend it in another area you need. Maybe you could get the reduced budget number set aside with a contingency budget that could be used if things get better.

By thinking about the challenges that may come up, you can be ready for them when they happen.

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