CADDManager on April 1st, 2009

Define the process of discussion and approval

You will be working with many people to create and maintain a CAD Standard. Some of these will be done in teams. Teams need guidelines.

One thing that needs to be done is for you to define the process of how things are discusses and approved. Do not assume that people know how discussions will flow and how approvals will be completed.

Make sure that everyone knows the discussion boundaries. Write them down. Give them to every member of any team you will be working with. It is a good idea to present them formally at the first meeting and review them from time to time.

Here are some ideas. Adjust them to fit your environment.

Discussion ground rules

Discussions should remain professional at all times. Some heated discussions may come about in the talks about standards. People get passionate about some of these topics. These passions may become dynamic topics. Keep them professional and dignified. You may have to referee these discussions.

Keep them on topic. There is such a wide range of things that could be discussed. Make sure that the topic on the table is the one being discussed. Don’t let it drift around. Call people back to the topic by making summary statements like “I am hearing (this and that). Is that correct?”

Everyone has an equal access and opinion. Expressing opinions is encouraged and welcomed. Every team member should speak their mind. Every opinion will be weighed and measured and discussed. The team will decide collectively on the value of an opinion, perspective, idea or suggestion.

Not every team member has the same level of authority. All ideas are equal, but not all have the same authority. Authority is defined by the team, not by the individual. The CAD Manager will have the greatest authority in the team, but will use this authority to govern the team, not through their weight around. Some may come to the team with higher level of corporate title. That applies outside the team, but not inside the team. Just because someone is of higher rank in the firm, does not make their opinions any higher. Leave rank at the door. This is where office politics comes into play. You have to work at keep office politics out of CAD Standard creation.

Everyone has an equal voice. Everyone participates.Make sure that every person is included in conversations. No one should dominate the discussion. Some may shrink back from a topic based on politics, personality or priority. Make sure that when a topic nears conclusion that every person has spoken to it. Do not let someone be silent. Get verbal agreement. Silence may mean agreement or disagreement. Make every person state their agreement. Sometimes this is verbal vote by going around the table.

Begin and end on time. This is tough, but make sure that you watch the clock. People are busy and need to know that a commitment to the process will not overly impact their other tasks. Be flexible at the end of your meeting time if a discussion is lively. If the end time approaches and you are not done, tell everyone you will go over and how long that will be. Don’t go over your end time too often.

Everything that is said here stays here. You are not in Las Vegas, but if things are still in progress, the topic should stay with the team. Team members should not rally outsiders to their perspective. When a topic is “in process” – keep it inside the team until you have enough defined to get approval from the team.

No side conversations during the meeting. Keep everyone on point and focused. Don’t let people verbally wander off. It is annoying and you are not able to track multiple conversations. Side conversation can happen before and after the meeting also. Try to keep track of those. Keep your ears open for indications of smaller groups from the team getting together to push one issue. Sometimes you may have to insert yourself into these outside conversations to make sure they are following the rules, find out if their conversations are coming up with a good idea or if they are just complaining. Outside conversations will happen and they are a good thing, if they are constructive and team focused.

By discussing the ground rules first, you can avoid difficult meetings, discussions and outcomes.

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