image image1 As many of you may already know I am proud to say that I am both an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor Member in the Order of the Arrow (Scoutings National Honor Society). Most recently, my local council (Heart of Virginia Council) has been leading an initiative to form a local Eagle Scout Alumni Association. Just last week the council hosted its first alumni association event at which I had the distinct honor and privilege to speak at. The subject of my speech was simply to share what I felt it meant to be a lifelong Eagle Scout.

My Trail to Eagle

Looking back upon my Trail to Eagle, I couldn’t help but notice the number of scout skills I learned on my Trail to Eagle, that are especially poignant to my “real-world” CAD Management job. Most poignant of which seems to be a leadership principle I learned as a member in the Order of the Arrow (OA). Dr. E. Urner Goodman, founder of the OA, was once quoted “For he who serves his fellows, is of all his fellows, greatest.” The quote is a fundamental building block to a leadership concept taught in the OA known as “Servant Leadership”.

The CAD Manager

This leadership concept I learned long ago has proven itself invaluable as I have entered into the realm of CAD Management. Like many other firms, CAD Management is seen as an IT service, and IT is seen as a support service for the firm. Given the fact my role includes things like end-user CAD support, training, license servers and the like – I can’t necessarily argue this placement. Even still the separation between our production staff and IT introduces an interesting dynamic when one sets out to do something like implement CAD Standards.

Quite simply as CAD Manager you are responsible for developing and implementing CAD Standards, but yet you have little direct authority over CAD production staff. Conversely, a project manager typically has a great deal of authority over the designers for which he supervises. And so the diary of a mad CAD Manager begins: I’ve been trying to implement these standards, but no one will adhere to them…

Like most things in CAD Management, there’s no single answer on how to successfully standardize a company. Things like managerial buy-in, CAD committees, etc are each integral parts to the whole process, but I’d argue the most important factor is you. How you personally approach the standardization process will have an overwhelming impact on the end result of your CAD Standards.

You could certainly choose to become the dictator of CAD Standards, effectively stating “it’s my way or the highway”. Of course if you have ever worked under such a CAD Manager you know how miserable that can be. The other option if you can become more of a coach, conditioning your team to win the World Series of CAD Standardization – become the servant leader.

Servant Leadership Defined

Wikipedia defines the concept of Servant Leadership with 10 points; listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of others, and building community. To me – these are more than the ten points of being a Servant Leader; it’s more like the ten points of being a successful CAD Manager.

  • Listening: While you should strive to become the resident expert, you will never know everything there is to know about the dynamics of your firm and the work it does. Recognizing that fact, and being sincere with the folks who are kind enough to share their knowledge with you will get your further than you can imagine.
  • Empathy: There will come a time where you are in fact right about a point, and the user on the other end is wrong. Regardless if the person really is a moron, you certainly can’t say that to their face and expect them to have any longstanding respect for you. Instead you will foster a much stronger relationship with you users by helping them through their CAD difficulties than reprimand them for not knowing.
  • Healing: Taking an empathetic approach with some users just isn’t going to get you very far, and so a more blunt approach may be required. Maybe you have already coached someone on how to adhere to the file management standards a dozen times, and yet they still refuse to use them.Just as a good coach will likely fuss at a baseball player for improperly fielding the ball during a game, during the next practice he will also include exercises to help that player properly field the ball. Sometime after fussing at a user for breaking the standards you need to follow-up to make sure they know how to “field the ball”.
  • Awareness: Your users look to you to fulfill the role of resident expert. When so much of our lives as CAD managers is spent using Microsoft Office it can be hard to keep our own AutoCAD skills sharp. A CAD Manager has to have an intimate knowledge of both the CAD package your firm uses, and the firm you work for. Possessing this knowledge will allow you to better align the abilities of your CAD platform with the abilities of your firm.
  • Persuasion: As the old saying goes you can attract more bees with honey than vinegar. You could certainly say “here’s the standard, now use it”, but you probably won’t get too far. If you instead say “here’s our brand-new layer standard which if everyone uses will make it so we can share xref’s between departments”. Quite simply, people want to know “what’s in it for me”, or “how’s this going to be better than x”. You are much more likely to see your companies CAD Standard adhered to if you can answer those questions.
  • Conceptualization: Before you start a training program, assemble a CAD Committee, or begin writing your CAD Standards – you have to have a defined plan. It’s tempting to take pictures first, and build the frame to show those pictures in second. You must resist the temptation by building your frame first, and then composing the perfect photo to place in that frame.
  • Foresight: Just because something isn’t practical in your firm today, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t begin turning the ship today. Moving from Land Desktop to Civil 3D is a perfect example of this. For most firms implementing Civil 3D in a week or even a month isn’t a very practical ambition. There are a lot of small things that have to happen leading up to a Civil 3D deployment. As a CAD Manager you have to have the foresight to make those things happen 1-year, 6-months, 3-weeks before your deployment.
  • Stewardship: CAD Managers lead a peripatetic existence. They travel from user to user, department to department, sharing a philosophical vision on how to make CAD work both individually and corporately. While we may familiarize ourselves with the micro-environments (departments) in our firms, our true focus is more macro in nature, fostering initiatives which are for the well being of the firm as a whole.
  • Building Community: Building a CAD Committee, hosting regular user group meetings are each especially important communal building functions all CAD Managers should do. Beyond that however the random non-technical “water cooler chats” are in my opinion some of the most important chats you can have with a user. Although a person’s dog, the weather, or even the stock market has little-to-nothing to do with “work” it achieves an important goal for any CAD Manager. It builds rapport with your users!

CAD Management is unquestionably unique in the way that few of us have hire/fire authority over our users. Since the direct consequences for not following the companies’ standards are well – minimal, as CAD Managers we have to employ a much different approach to “management.” Today I look back upon my Trail to Eagle, and quickly realize the full breath of Dr. E. Urner Goodman’s quote “For he who serves his fellows, is of all his fellows, greatest.” In the role of CAD Manager that translates to building rapport with, listening to, and overall serving the needs of your users.


For those curious about my involvement in scouting…

I achieved the Rank of Eagle Scout on April 12, 2000 in the Heart of Virginia Council (then the Robert E. Lee Council). As an arrowman in the Order of the Arrow (Scoutings’ National Honor Society) I also earned their highest honor – the Vigil Honor. When you receive the Vigil Honor you are given a “Vigil Name” by your peers. Translated, my Vigil Name was “Tall Diligent Noisy One”. These days I still remain active in the scouting program, currently serving as the webmaster for my council.