Tech Manager—The First Law of Tech Motion

I love change! I imagine most of you actually like change, too. Everyone likes good changes. When things change for the better, everyone is pleased. Ask exactly what makes a change “better” and you might get several differing responses. We all like some things and not others. No one likes a change (or turn) for the worse. We want to avoid those.

Tech managers who oversee CAD, BIM, and other tech tools have to keep things moving forward. New releases, new software, new hardware, new methods, and new staff are always impacting our productivity. We need change, and change involves movement. We are tasked with getting things moving and keeping them moving. Change requires motion. Motion takes effort.

The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535 BC – 475 BC), has been quoted as saying “Change is the only constant in life.” Don’t we all say this now? In the tech business, change is always happening. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast, and even sometimes in leaps and bounds.

Sir Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion states, "A body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion unless it is acted upon by an external force." Just so you are informed for your next get together… The second is, "The force acting on an object is equal to the mass of that object times its acceleration." And the third is, "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

The First Law is my focus, swapping change for the word motion—things don’t change much (unless you make them) and once change starts, it just keeps on going (unless you stop it).

A Body at Rest

We tend to rest in our design tool methods and get stuck in a rut. We use methods from prior releases that are still functional, but may not be the best. I bet you are still doing some things that you learned in the earliest release of the software you use every day. You still may have some command line tools in Windows. Some early release processes from AutoCAD® 14 (well, maybe not that far back). Some self- created LISP routines that still work and you still use. Some first-generation BIM families that have not been updated because they still do the job. Nothing necessarily wrong with all of that, but it shows that you tend to stay with what works. No need to move away from it, right?

A Body in Motion

But there is a need. Resting on the past is not good when it stymies progress. You have to get your users to move forward. You are the “external force” that acts upon the “body at rest.” Your team may be resting and you need to act to get them moving.

"The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency." – Bill Gates

Moving is where you want to be. Small efforts lead to great things. Just start rattling around and showing some antsy behaviors and people will take notice. Start moving yourself and others will follow. They will catch on and come alongside you as you seek to improve things.

Unless It Is Acted On By An External Force

You are the Force. May the Force be with You. You need to get them moving. Here are some tips for getting people unstuck and moving forward—just a quick bulleted list of ideas. Many you have heard before; many you have tried before. This is not a priority list—just a stream of thought that I wrote down. Bottom line: just do something.

  • Lunch and Learn (sorry—this is an old tip, but a good starting point)
  • Buy new tools/utilities/programs
  • Start complaining a little about small things (not total negativity, just unsettle things a little)
  • Ask others for a better way
  • Leak out new initiatives that might be coming
  • Go to a tradeshow and come back and tell others what you saw
  • Share something you read about
  • Chat with someone you normally do not chat with
  • Talk change up with influencers
  • Drop hints at changes coming into conversations
  • Leave tech magazines out around your office
  • Hold a whiteboard brainstorm session and do not erase it for a week—just let everyone see it
  • Start asking a lot of questions—is there a better way?
  • Roll out a small change and then build on it
  • Start talking about how things “could be”
  • Start doing things differently yourself—lead the way
  • Review the goals of your firm with others. Are we achieving this or that?
  • Don’t change things just to change—find something worthy of changing first
  • Applaud those that change something
  • Talk about prior changes and how they helped the team to achieve success
  • Think out loud (say it) “Maybe we could do this. What do you think?”
  • Listen as other complain—offer improvements after you think about it

By starting small, people will not get spooked by change. Change takes energy and some folks just don’t want to work at it.  Charles Franklin Kettering may have said it best. Known as Charles "Boss" Kettering, he was an inventor, engineer, businessman, and the holder of 186 patents (including the electric automobile starter motor and in-dash radios). He was a founder of Delco, and was head of research at General Motors (1920 – 1947). Kettering said “People are very open-minded about new things, as long as they're exactly like the old ones.” So true. But you can change that.

Don’t let stagnation infect your environment. Plan on making changes and do it soon. Start small and accelerate as you go. You can be the electric starter motor for your team. Time to turn over the engine.

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