Letter from the President - April 2017

I don’t know about you, but when I graduated from college, the idea of “management” wasn’t anywhere on my radar. I was going to go design buildings. Sure, that would involve being part of a team. But running that team? That was for somebody else.

Funny thing, you gain experience at a firm and in an industry, sometimes you become that “somebody else.” A management role can sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention, until you look around one day and realize you’re in charge.

I suspect that the “accidental” management path is especially common among CAD Managers. Many of us more or less evolved into our role, rather than seeking it out on purpose. What starts one day as an interest in software, or an awareness of drafting or modeling inefficiencies, can quickly grow into a leadership opportunity.

That kind of improvisation can be beneficial in the sense that it matches up talent with need. But it can also mean that many of us are learning management skills on the fly, so to speak. And of course there are many different types of management: CAD and BIM leaders often need to be able to manage people and projects in addition to CAD or BIM standards.

I’ll come back to people management in a future letter, but today I’m thinking about project management. Whether it’s taking a building through various design stages, implementing a new office standard, or deploying a new software package, I bet we all have “project management” tasks from time to time. And the first step of any project is—or should be— a plan.

Planning is easy for some of us, harder for others. What kind of planner are you? Are you a mosaicist or a painter?

If you haven’t heard that analogy before, I’m not surprised. (I made it up.) Let me explain.

When you’re building a mosaic, you start with lots of little pieces of tile and put them together into a larger work of art. For a painting, you make a sketch on the canvas, then apply broad washes of color, and finally fill in the details.

Both types have an end result in mind when they begin, and they might end up with similar pictures, but their process is totally different.

If you have a large project to tackle, which approach do you use? Do you assemble all your bits and pieces and use them to structure your plan? Or do you draft the overall goal and then break it down into discrete tasks?

I don’t think either method is necessarily superior to the other. Either can be deployed effectively as long as there’s thought behind it. But I do think it would be time well spent to analyze your own preferences and tendencies, and see if there are elements of the other method that you can incorporate into your own workflow.

Anything we can do to actively advance our skills as managers—whatever type of management we’re responsible for—will benefit everyone in the long run.

Happy planning!

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