CAD management is both a science and an art. A science because it deals with specific, tangible design specifications and deliverables. An art because to deliver those designs, you must manage teams, deadlines, and competing interests from clients and superiors.
What are some essential competencies for managing a CAD team? How can you get a leg up, and move your company and career forward? Product, design and software specifics will differ from industry to industry and company to company. However, there are some tips that will translate to better CAD management, no matter your role or discipline.
1. Understand How You’re Being Measured
There are a hundred different metrics, priorities and success factors to worry about as a CAD manager. But the most successful CAD managers have identified and focused on the one that truly matters.
As CAD management expert Robert Green explains in this video, what matters are deadlines. Green outlines how his career took off when he stopped worrying so much about hardware, software, systems or processes—and instead focused on delivering work by its stated deadline.
In fact, doing so made his job much better, he says in the video. Things like getting a budget approved became easier, as he was trusted to do what was necessary based on his exceptional results.
How can you do that? Green suggests starting first with the hard delivery date for your project, then working back from there to ensure all team members hit their deliverable deadlines and get the final designs out the door.
If you need hands-on help with your CAD management needs, Robert Green offers consulting services through his website.
2. Effective Communication is Essential
We often think we’ve gotten our point across. Then, when tasks don’t get done according to our specifications, we tend to blame other factors like a team member’s capabilities or managerial interference. In fact, most of us could significantly improve how we communicate—and few skills are more important in CAD management.
A few important tips to remember in any communication scenario include:
- Say it simpler. Before you hit send on an email or draw up a meeting agenda, take a second look. How can you pare it down so that your core message comes across even clearer?
- Check your body language. What you do matters as much as what you say. Slumped shoulders or a shaky voice can indicate you aren’t confident in what you’re saying. A lack of eye contact indicates you aren’t truly paying attention to what a team member is saying. Beware communicating something different than you intend with your body language.
- Ask for feedback on your communication. Feedback from colleagues on how you communicate is important to develop your skills over time. But it’s also valuable in the moment. Simple follow-ups like “Does that make sense?” or “Am I explaining that clearly?” give team members an opening to clarify what you’ve communicated.
For more information on effective communication for engineers and CAD professionals, see this post on how to better communicate with managers and colleagues, as well as this checklist for better communication.
3. Choose Your Battles Wisely—And Follow Up With High-Impact Activities
Whether it’s hardware, software, process changes or training, what CAD managers fight for and how they take on those battles is important. Robert Green provides some tips for specific CAD scenarios in this article. We highly recommend you check it out to find solutions to your specific issues at work.
However, there are some general takeaways that any CAD manager should keep in mind when seeking buy-in from decision-makers:
- Focus on the long term. When lobbying for anything that requires financial investment (which happens to be most things), price out the spend over the long term to show value over time, not the price tag upfront.
- Use investments as a way to change processes. Frame process and procedure change as ways to get the most out of investments in software, hardware or technology.
- Focus on results. At the end of the day, many decisions cost money that decision-makers are wary to spend. But if you can show the right results, they can be swayed, and even happy, they spent it.
What other tips have you used to become a better CAD manager? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!
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Image Source: Chris Potter via Flickr