Monday, September 18, 2006

Scouting for CAD Managers

No, I don't mean that I am searching for CAD Managers. What I mean is that I want to share with you some things I have learned through the Scouting program (Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts) which I continue to use in my professional life.

I am very grateful to my parents who allowed me to participate in scouts when I was a kid. There are great memories of camping and other events from that time of my life. But there are other things that have stuck with me that have become part of who I am. These are the things that encouraged me to allow my boys to be involved in scouting. And these are the things that I have tried to share with employees and coworkers.

The Cub Scout Motto: “Do Your Best”

“Do your best” is a pretty simple motto for boys in first through fifth grade, so I hope you will commit it to memory as well. My parents taught me that same idea and I hope your parents did the same for you. Their expectation wasn’t perfection. They didn’t say “Be the best,” they said “Do your best.” It’s a fairly subjective test of character isn’t it? Only you and God know whether you have done your best, and He’s keeping your secret for now.

“Do your best” is the kind of phrase that gets in your head and stays there. Have a challenge? Do your best. Have questions? Do your best. Have a decision to make? Do your best.

“Do your best” is an ideal that you can’t live up to, but it provides direction. Regardless of our personal desire to succeed, we all must overcome the urge to sit back and watch life happen to everyone else.

I highly recommend that you listen to Earl Nightingale’s “The Strangest Secret” (several times). If Nightingale is correct, and we become what we think about, shouldn’t we not only do our best but think about our best as well? When I was a CAD Manager I developed the desire to become the “CIO” of our company. Not the Chief Information Officer, but the Chief Innovation Officer. A mediocre CAD Manager does not innovate. A CAD Manager who’s motto is “Do Your Best” will innovate. I challenge you to think about being the Chief Innovation Officer at your company.

“Do Your Best”

CAD Mgmt: New Features Workshop(s) Online

UPDATED September 18, 2006

CAD Managers, be sure to make these links available to your designers:

AutoCAD 2007 New Features Workshop
AutoCAD LT 2007 New Features Workshop

Civil 3D 2007 New Features Workshop
Map 3D 2007 New Features Workshop

AutoCAD 2006 New Features Workshop no longer available online
AutoCAD LT 2006 New Features Workshop no longer available online
Architectural Desktop 2006 New Features Workshop

If you find others available, please let me know and I will post them.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Dog "Ate" My CAD

My last post reminded me of a time when a business friend, Ward, and I spent several days in a volley of polysyllabic words that end in “ate”. You know, negotiate, facilitate, innovate, etc. Much to the annoyance of our coworkers (my apologies to Steve and Skip), we would verbally launch these terms back and forth throughout the day: masticate, infuriate, obliterate, retaliate, etc. Sometimes we would build on each other’s latest assault: negotiate, renegotiate, etc. The battle waned, and so did the day. I must admit that my ammunition was running low, and probably my blood sugar was as well, as evidenced in the feeble shot that became my favorite term in the battle: “dinner plate”.

So, what’s the point of this post? Exercise your mind (and don’t forget to stop and take time to eat).

CAD Mgmt Toolbox: Two Essential Skills

Most CAD Managers I know have (or had) very good technical skills. They could draft well, design well, and somewhere along the way they learned to “tech” (i.e., troubleshoot) well. So in the infinite wisdom of the Peter Principle, they were promoted, reassigned, advanced, laterally moved, sworn in, knighted, christened, or duped into the official or unofficial role of “CAD Manager” (see Typical CAD Manager). Now, in addition to the skills which brought them here, they must develop two essential skills not covered in a drafting class or a users’ guide.

Back in 1991, Bob Keefer, AIA and I spent some time observing the “state of CAD.” We presented our observations at the NAAUG Conference that year (anyone remember NAAUG?) We titled our presentation “CADvantage or CADastrophe” and proceeded to describe the advantages and disadvantages of CAD at that time. Tom Conti of Walt Disney Imagineering took the stage and summarized our message as “educate management” and “train users”. Well, that was succinct and pretty accurate. We could have saved everyone a lot of time if he had said that before we got on stage, but then everyone would have missed our obligatory 3D spinning logo .fli on the screen.

Some things don’t change very much. The two essential skills are the same; I just refer to them in different terms today. Have you ever tried to “educate” your manager? You might succeed once or twice, but don’t make a habit of it. Generally your effort to “educate” someone higher in the company org chart will not be well received. Instead, consider the term “negotiate”.

You’ll need negotiation skills for more than your next budget discussion with your boss. You’ll need negotiation skills when purchasing hardware and software. You’ll need negotiation skills when introducing Layer Guideline changes. And you’ll need negotiation skills whenever your attempt to innovate.

Now what about that second essential skill? “Train Users” needs some revision as well. Elsewhere in this blog I have referred to the tendency to use the term “user” as profanity. Drop the term – the “us vs. them” mentality it provokes with those “users” isn’t worth the hassle. Remember, these people are either your “coworkers” or, if you are a consultant, they are your “associates”.

It only takes teaching one class to quickly realize that you aren’t going to “train” everyone. Some adults refuse to be trained and, in my opinion, some adults (brace yourself for a totally politically incorrect statement) can not be trained. Your second essential skill is to “facilitate”. You create an environment where adults can choose to learn. You offer classes, seminars, and documentation to facilitate their education.

So your two new essential skills are “negotiate” and “facilitate”. Where are you going to develop those skills? They aren’t something you can learn in a day. You can’t simply proclaim “I am now a negotiator and facilitator”. These skills are studied and they are practiced. So, as I hope I’ve asked before – what books are you reading and who are you hanging around? The answers to those two questions will assist you in determining your next step in developing these two essential skills.

How I spent my summer vacation

No, not really, but I was recently reprimanded by an old friend for letting my blog gather dust. His gentle reminder was something like (I’m paraphrasing here), “publish or die.” So, I thought I should try to add something.

I apologize for not being more frequent in my posts. Family commitments, changes at work, (constant) changes at Autodesk, Scouting commitments, etc. have all contributed to my procrastination. And let’s not forget that my blog is not a profitable venture. I don’t get paid for it. It isn’t part of my job… whine, whine, whine. If I am tugging at your heart strings, please visit some of the advertisers on the right or drop something in my PayPal tip jar at the bottom of the page.

Okay, enough of the shameless commercialism. As Pooh would say, this blog is “a Useful Pot to put things in.” So, let’s put something in it.