Influential Leadership

Enforcing CAD Standards Without Authority

There's a myth among CAD and BIM managers that authority is the secret to success. A common belief is unless you are given the authority to enforce what you create, the odds of being successful are stacked against you. Struggling to get my firm to adopt the standards I had developed for it, there was a time where I too subscribed to this belief. I thought to myself (and sometimes out loud), the company's CAD standards will remain a dream of unrealized opportunity until I'm given the authority to enforce the standards.

Like so many I've spoken to over the years, the mystery I couldn't solve was why the company had made it my responsibility to build CAD standards but not given me (or anyone else for that matter) the authority to make sure they were used properly? How could a company I admired for its history of smart business decisions fail so badly with this one?

Focused on solving this mystery, I tried everything I could think of to convince the company to give me the authority I needed to make pure awesomeness happen with respect to our design software. I did everything I could to navigate the corporate hierarchy both above and laterally to me; making my case to anyone who would listen. Still, days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months, and while I got the politely cooperative head nod affirming the merits of my arguments - I made very little progress. Put simply, the company had a CAD standard that no one used because no one had the authority to make sure it was used. Or at least that's the version of the story I firmy believed in.

That belief didn't change until I finally took a step back to reevaluate what I was asking for. After all, didn't Albert Einstein say the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? By every objective measure I could think of, I was a certifiably insane CAD manager.

In taking a step back, I quickly realized I was asking for and pursuing the wrong thing. What I needed to enforce our CAD standards was influence, not authority. Some might say influence and authority are synonyms, and in many ways you're probably right. The net result from each of these terms is largely the same; having the power to affect the way people use design software at my company. Who cares what you call it so long as people use the software the way they should be?

Frankly, not many people should care what you call things, and fewer than that probably do care inside your firm. My advice to you is not to waste your time trying to promote your definitions of the words authority and influence. Afterall, wasn't it a series of tell and ask assertive behaviors that got you here in the first place?

Although the net result is the same, the difference between authority and influence is how you receive the power you need to oversee the use of standards inside your organization. The quest for authority is just a disguised way of asking for this power to be given to you as a singular action. By contrast, the quest for influence is a form of authority earned through a series of actions. Put another way, authority is something given by your superiors, influence is something you earn from your peers.

As a CAD/BIM manager you're expected to be as much a leader as you are a technical expert. Strong leaders know authority is something that's earned, not given. I suspect it's for this reason so few company's give their CAD/BIM manager the authority to enforce standards. They instead leave it to the CAD/BIM manager to find ways to lead the use of things like standards within a orginization.

There are numerous tactics one can employ to earn influence within a orginization. I'll share some of my own thoughts into that topic in future blog posts. In the meantime, let me know in the comments whether you were given the authority to enforce standards at your company, or if it was something you had to earn? What tactics did you employ to earn that status within your company?

Building a CAD Committee

No sleep til' Christmas!  Last week it was Autodesk University in Las Vegas, this week marks the start of our Layer Standard implementation.  Getting to this milestone is incredibly exciting, as this implementation is the culmination of about a year of planning.  You may be wandering - what took so long?  After all it's just a layer standard.

Our approach has been one coined by my co-worker Eric Chappell; Evolution not Revolution.  Just to shed some light onto my firm.  We are full-service civil engineering & GIS technology firm with about 350 professionals throughout 10 offices.  Among our strengths as a firm is the fact we offer a diverse array of services in-house; transportation, utilities, site development, residential, environmental, survey, etc.  At the start of our standardization initiative, this very strength posed itself as an innate challenge.  The challenge wasn't that our CAD users we not following a standard, it was the fact each department, and even office had their own standard.  These numerous standards were not necessarily the result of renegade users, but rather a series of custom tailored solutions directed towards the review agencies each group submitted plans to.  Right out of the gate, it seemed like an impossible task to somehow combine all of these standards into a single company standard.  So how did we do it?

The short answer is time, patience, and persistence.  Working through the needs of so many departments, and so many review agencies will undoubtedly take time.  To fast track this process is much like filling an airplanes tank halfway, and hoping you will be able to land before you run out of gas.  Fill your tanks now, it's going to be a long ride!

Starting a CAD Standard

Starting a CAD Standard 102607 2202 startingaca1A special thanks to Lynn Allen for her presentation to the Richmond AutoCAD Manifest (RAM) Thursday night. After Lynn's presentation I along with some other RAM members had a chance to chat with her. Numerous topics came up during the course of conversation. Oddly enough of all the topics we discussed, files seemed to be the most entertaining - don't ask. Although not in the same context, the topic of files leads me into a common question about CAD Standardization. How does one start a CAD Standard?

Oftentimes when one thinks about CAD Standardization, the first thing that comes to mind is graphical standards. While graphical standards are incredibly important to standardizing a company, is it the best place to start? Some would argue that a layer standard is the most important part of a complete CAD Standard. But is your layer standard them most important element of a CAD Standard?

Before I answer that, let's think for a moment why we create CAD Standards. The simple answer here is to make it so each of our projects share a common foundation. Consistency = Efficiency. Thus, classifying your layer standard to be the most important element of your CAD Standard is like saying one foundation block is more important than another.