1. I get to see/network with all of my peers. I think this is the first thing that I love about AU. It gives me a chance to interact and catch up with all those that I have connected with in the past. It gives me a chance to connect with new people. I seriously set out to talk to more strangers in one week than I do for the rest of the year.
2. Checking out new technology. I love seeing what the mature tools have added and what new tools are being introduced. I walk the show floor to take it all in. I stop at every booth that grabs my attention. What grabs my attention? It is great new ideas that are innovative and/or iterative. It is the big leaps in technology and the small steps that eliminate pains that I have.
3. Finding out what Autodesk is up to. I love listening to what they have to tell me. I do not take it all at face value. I dig into what they say and see what practical value it will have for me. It is the real productivity and creativity innovations that launch my imagination about how their tools might change my firms workflow and output.
4. Listening to great speakers. Every speaker has some key point that will unlock the chains of my technologies shackles. These experts will help release me from the fetters that bind my ability to get things done. These speakers provide me with so many tips and tricks and new perspectives that my head aches by the end of each day.
5. Finding out how AUGI is expanding. Every year the membership climbs, the forums expand, publications flourish and the benefits of membership go up. I am hoping for great things this year.
6. Presenting. I love to present and I hope that I am effective and enjoyable to listen to. I seek to make you think, change your perspective, widen your view, focus your planning, execute with vigor and increase the joy of working with CAD/BIM and the people who you manage and work with.
7. And finally, I love to introduce others to the things I love. If you meet up with me, you can expect me to share something with you that you need to tap into. I will introduce you to others that I think you should get to know. I will ask if you have been to a vendors booth to see the great tech there. I will encourage you to talk to the teachers, Autodesk staff and vendors so that you will come to love AU like I do.
If you are able to go this year… See you soon.
There are several things that most users want from a CAD Manager. Of course they want the latest and greatest hardware and software. And they want killer training. But I want to go beyond the obvious to what I think are some pivotal items that Here is my list of the things that they want that make the biggest impact on the company and their environment.
All users and firms want someone who will take charge of the CAD environment and make progress toward some goal. The goals may differ from firm to firm but they must align with the firm and user needs. Leadership includes laying out a plan and moving decisively to achieve the goals.
No one likes to be lied too. I am not talking about bold face lying. I trust that no one really does that. But Users will be sensitive to the information or lack of info that comes from the CAD Manager. They want honest answers that don’t duck the questions. They want honest responses that address the problems. They need you to be direct and to the point (in a respective manner).
They want you to take ownership of everything that gives them problems. They want to pass their problems on to you. They want you to fix them and get everything back on track. CAD Managers that refuse to “own” their systems only create more problems. Every problem that occurs in your office related to CAD is really “your” problem. If it is not a work stopper, then take on the problem and let them keep working. Get back to them with the fix ASAP.
They want you to know how to diagnose and fix troubles. They want you to analyze and work toward a fix. Reduce the problems to their root cause and then evaluate corrective actions or workarounds. What they really need is for you to get them back to being productive as soon as possible.
They want you to pay attention. They may not say it but they want you to be attentive to what they complain about and seek to alleviate those annoyances.
They want you to do this before they ask. So listen to what they are saying and what they mention that sounds like it may soon be a problem. Keep a sharp eye out for telltale signs of frustration. Ask them what is going wrong. In fact, don’t even wait for signals, just ask them from time to time what is not working.
They want to see progress on issues. They don’t necessarily need to see instant results, but they need to see things progressing along. If you say that you will be updating the layer list, then make it happen. If you are not going to focus on something, don’t make any promises that you will. (kind of goes back to the honesty thing)
Sometimes the users just want to be left alone. The pace of software upgrades and changes in the CAD arena demand a lot of learning and effort on the part of your users. You need to give them a respite from the fast paced world of CAD releases.
They want to feel like you are on the same team. I have heard stories from users that their CAD Managers treat them like inferiors or kids or losers. This is obviously not a good situation for happy users. They would rather work in an environment where communication flows freely and openly. Where you keep them involved and informed. They would rather work where it is a collective team working toward a common goal.
This is the glue that holds the whole thing together. It means doing what you say you are going to do. Taking responsibility for issues and working together to make your CAD environment a successful one.
I attended a webinar today on the 2015 Autodesk Application Manager presented by Erik Klein. It seemed pretty promising for the SMB sized firms.
Autodesk defines this new tools as :
Autodesk Application Manager is a cloud-centric software delivery solution, which includes a desktop software component that self-installs with all Microsoft Windows®-based Autodesk 2015 products and suites. This solution replaces previous product update components, specifically LiveUpdate, portions of InfoCenter / Communication Center, and CAD Manager Control Utility (note that these components will remain in production to support previous product versions).
What it does is assist in the management of your installed versions of your licensed products under subscription. There is an installed client that gets put in place with the install of 2015 products (this can be turned off). Once installed the CAD Manager can create lists of users on the Account Portal and manage notifications and distributions of software upgrade, patches and hot fixes.
To find out more go to the Knowledgebase FAQ
I ended the last series on Critical Conversations about CAD with some quick advice on what to do when you fail. I wanted to revisit that topic and provide some additional comments on learning from failure. When failure happens you have to review how you got in that position. How could things have gone so bad? What can we do to avoid this from happening again?
Reevaluate what really happened. Do not just take the surface and obvious items that everyone can see. Look deeper. The obvious things might be key to finding root causes, but some things might lay just under the surface. Uncover more than you may have done in the past. Review the obvious and peel back each step to see if the failure was a gradual decline or a sudden fall. Did each step work as expected? Did the result of each step completely meet expectations? If not – Why not? You have to keep asking “why?” Why did this happen? Why did we not see this? Why did it not work?
Rethink what you might have done. What might you have done at each step that would have improved the outcome? If we applied more resources, what would have happened? If we had more budget would it really have mattered? Throwing money at a problem does not guarantee success. If we had another team member in the mix we could we have made better progress?
Get input from others. Specifically, someone that was not involved with the planning and execution. Some items may be obvious to others and seem hidden from your sight. Others may see it immediately while you may have to look beyond your preconceived perspectives.
Think about what you will do differently next time – then actually do it. Do not only devise or speculate on what you might change in the future… actually change something. Doing things the same way and expecting things to come out differently is pure folly. Manage the change so that you know that what was changed actually impacted the outcome. Too often we change too many things at the same time and never discover which ones had the greatest effect.
Don’t do nothing. Doing nothing only permits anyone to grab at what might have caused the failure and what might turn it into success. There is an inability built into each one of us to see beyond our immediate perception. We need to see beyond our original planning and seek to do better next time through specific modifications in our approach.
Don’t come to a conclusion too quickly. Some may ask “how long do we analyze this failure before we move on?” You should ponder your failures as long as it takes. Seem subjective? it is. Do not move forward until you have at least three actionable reasons for the failure. Don’t move after the first one you find. Don’t move on until you have specific actionable items to work on. Straining to find more than three can stagnate and frustrate. Three items seems like a good start.
CAD Issues that are brought to you must be addressed. CAD problems can corrupt CAD files, cripple progress and ruin projects. This is not a good thing. Issues have to be dealt with when they arise. Better yet – tackle them when they are just concerns before they become failures.
But failures happen. They are often avoidable when issues are caught early and addressed, but can still happen even when you know they are coming. I have seen train wreck projects that continue to cascade down the line toward failure. I have seen countless man-hours chewed up fixing things that were left in a mess. I have seen users do very interesting things that mangle files.
When an issue goes unaddressed it breed failure. Things break and may become irreparable. Then you have to recreate things to get them working. CAD failures impact you as the CAD Manager. They reflect badly on your ability to keep things running smoothly. They may not be something that you could have prevented, but others think you can.
When CAD Failures Happen
Take ownership of the repair. Do whatever you can to get things back on track. Personally take charge of the situation and make adjustments and suggestions as needed.
Speak the truth. Don’t candy coat things. Tell people what the problem is and what you think the fix is. Don’t place blame, but do not let blame land on your shoulders if it is not warranted. Others will try to place it firmly in your hands, so document your findings and tell people what really might have cause the problem. Keep it positive and not a negative attack on anyone, but get your perspective out there.
Address the issues directly with management. Take the conversation as high up the food chain as you can take it. As you move higher, keep the conversation brief unless they ask more questions. Most upper managers do not want a forensic investigation outlined to them in detail. They want a concise explanation of the problem and a definitive plan to correct it.
Follow through on the repairs. If you are doing them, let people know when they are done. If others are doing them, check in often for updates and examine the results to verify that the fix really worked.
You notice something. Then you become concerned. Then it becomes an “Issue”. That is the progression… but how does it move from one to the next?
These are the steps of items evolving beyond annoyance, anomaly or abstraction. These are the items that have others moving beyond concern to very concerned, to an issue. The conversations that others start with you begins with “We have an issue with…” and move quickly from there to possibly even more advanced levels.
How things move from Noticed to a Concern
If you notice something, you keep your eye on it and address it when it first looks to be a concern. Others typically do not bring you things that they notice. They may mention them in conversation, but it is typically not the topic of the discussion. they may concur when you mention something. They may validate your perceptions, but they seldom bring things up that they have noticed.
After investigating things you notice, if they are bigger than you think or have greater impact, they move to concerns. You can move them ahead on this progression of awareness. When things that you notice move to things that cause concern, that is when you go talk to others. It has moved from being noticed and is now a concern.
But when do people come and talk to you about troubling items? People mostly bring things to your attention when they have moved from being noticed to being a concern. This is when you hear about things that you have not noticed. It happens when it becomes a concern to someone else. They come and talk to you about it. This is the same progression that happened like your own advancement from noting to concern. The awareness just happened to someone else.
How things move from Concern to Issue
Moving from concern to issue happens when something along the pathway of correction fails to work. It happens when corrective measures are not started. There are a few ways that this happens.
Things get to the issue level by being ignored. Face it, sometimes things just fall through the cracks. They get pushed to the back of the list when they should have been “noticed” and move to the front. They get bumped behind something that seemed more urgent when they should have been seen as a “concern”. They should have been fixed sooner than this.
Things get to an issue level when you are not made aware of them. You may not even know that people have noticed some area of trouble, or when they have identified it as a concern. They come to you when they are already broken. No one makes you aware of the concern until it is too late for you to head off the problem.
Things get to an issue level when your corrective measures are not enough. You may have seen it coming and started repairing the files or projects effected, but it is not enough to get out ahead of the problem. The impact has started and you are not able to contain the effects.
Next up… When Issues Descend into Failure
When CAD concerns continue without being addressed they become CAD “Issues”.
Issues should be fairly easy to identify because someone should let you know about it. That does not always happen and we will discuss that in the next post. For now, let’s just identify the Issues.
Issues are trouble spots that have impacted workflow and endanger deliverables, dollars or deadlines. These are the big “3Ds” that when put in danger… people notice. I mean they become concerned. Actually – it is an Issue.
What are the things that people consider issue worthy?
Things that cause delays. Things are slowing down or not moving fast enough. Troubles have impacted files and people are not able to get things done. Things that used to work are no longer working. Things that used to be easy are now hard.
Things that cause client comments. Things may be humming along fine from your perspective, but the client does not. Client comments cause major issues with most project managers.
Things that others want to blame on you. There – I said it. There are a lot of times when CAD is too easy to pick on. Everyone can just blame the CAD guy or the CAD file or the CAD Manager. You know it happens. You know that the project was tanking way before there were any “CAD Problems”. The trouble is that these comments are hard to deflect. Other than having perfect CAD files, which is really tough to do in a large environment (two or more users – lol), there may be little to do that can ward off blame issues.
Issues are things that others just want to go away. They want you to fix them and fix them now. They expect them to be addressed and corrected. They are a call to action. Acting fast.
You should not have any trouble identifying an Issue – others will let you know exactly what the issue is.
Up next Evolution of Awareness
Last time I talked about things that you might “notice”. Now we turn to the things that you have noticed that have become a “concern”.
When you “notice” something, you are just perceiving repetitions that might have a pattern. You are piecing together disparate items that may link to a common thread. They might not have anything in common and never move past something that you just happened to notice. This can happen a lot. I have noticed many things that have nothing to do with any underlying problems. They are just anomalies. Unconnected bits of information that can be filed away (but keep them handy in your mind, just in case something comes up later).
I tend to notice things like my car making funny noises. I hear things that do not sound right or that do not sound the same. The AC might sound different. The transmission might howl a little. I used to have a Volkswagen Bug and it made strange noises all the time. They tended to come and go. I would make a mental note when I heard something strange and then wait to see if it would go away. The noises usually went away. It was just a noisy old car.
Unlike the noises my car might start and then stop making, the things you notice in CAD usually do not go away. It is really a matter of how far and what impact these items might have. When they move from one file to another. When they pop up from one user to the next. When you see them bridging one project and into another… that is when they become “concerns”.
When things you “notice” become things that cause “concern” you need to address them. It has gone beyond a random flareup of individual items. It has now moved in to a repeating sore spot. It is happening on a regular basis and seems to be spreading. It is not getting better. It might even be repeatable – you can make it happen. It has not been enough just to raise awareness via a “I noticed something” conversation. It is now time to gather the troops.
The first point of addressing them might be a critical conversation. Here is how that conversation might go.
“Hey Bob, I see that you are having troubles with plotting. I noticed that with others and I am becoming concerned. Can you tell me a little more about your troubles?” “Stacy, I am concerned that I may not have communicated the standard for layer names” – this would follow you noticing that Stacy has not been exactly consistent in layer naming. “Dave, have you noticed that the High Rise project is having trouble with file transfer? This is happening more and more and I am concerned that the files may be corrupt on some level.”
After the above intro, all of the conversations about concerns notify the person that something needs to happen. It may call for deeper, formal investigations around the problem, or it may be a call to action focused on avoiding the trouble spreading. This critical conversation – at the “concern” level – is calling for action. It is not just that you are noting something. You are stating that the problem now needs to be addressed. It may no longer be a suggestion. By addressing the problems that have risen to concern level, you salvage the files and project before they become issues that can have severe negative impact. You catch the problems and solve them – usually within the flow of normal work.
Once you have this level of conversation, things should happen. Someone, maybe you, will move toward resolving or uncovering the deeper problem. The project staff may need to have a meeting to see how pervasive the problem is. You may have to dig into some files to see what is happening. You (or someone) will have to expend time to define the problem and try to get it taken care of. This level of conversation usually does the trick. People do not like hearing the word “concern”. When they do, they seek to alleviate the concerns being discussed.
The only level higher than a ‘concern” will be discussed next. Identifying an Issue.
We discussed what to watch for and who to talk to. Now we move on to how to talk when you have to have a critical conversation.
There are three levels that I usually try to frame my discussions with people when something comes up that I have to address. I frame them under the lead off words I might use when starting the conversation.
- I noticed that…
- I am concerned about…
- We have an issue…
Let’s cover the first one. What you notice are the things that appear to be gathering into patterns. They may appear random at first, but their appears to be a coalescing theme coming into the light. You notice that several drawing are not plotting out right. You notice that people have come to you asking for help finding where project blocks are located. You hear someone having a conversation over the cubicle wall telling a coworker about replacing blocks in a file. There is a pattern coming out of these random observations. See the linkage… bad blocks???
Now is the time to step in. It may be nothing or it may be the start of something very bad. Time for a critical conversation. Here is how it might go…
Hey Steve, I notice that you had some problems getting a file to plot. What project was that? Hey Julie, I noticed that you asked about where the blocks were stored. Did you need those for a project? which one? Tom, did I notice you say that there were some blocks that needed to be replaced on a file the other day? what project was that?
All of these questions were not accusative nor divulging any specifics about possible concerns. You are just gathering information. You are looking a little deeper into a possible pattern. You are trying to uncover what might be impacting the workflow. It is a process that is a few steps back from the actual impact zone. You are not looking to get in people faces. That may cause them to stop providing information because they might think you are accusing or looking for someone to blame.
By taking a low key approach, you will gather little pieces of the overall puzzle. Putting together that puzzle may take you to step two in your critical conversations. Uncovering a Concern.