Standardizing Your Company – Part 3: Start at the Top

If you have been tuning in to these weekly posts then last week you would have taken the survey to determine whether your CAD standards are solid enough to proceed with a full-on Civil 3D implementation.  If you scored low and have work to do…what’s next?

Before writing a new standards manual or building your first template, you have to spend some time and effort making absolutely certain that everyone in your company is on board.  That starts with a conversation with the president, or whoever is the top dog/big cheese who has ultimate decision-making control.  That’s right…even if you’ve never spoken to this person in your life, you’re going to have to schedule a meeting, stroll into his/her office, and sell this idea.  And to make things worse, of all the people in your company, this person will more than likely care the least about the technical side of CAD.  So what do you do?

You should have two objectives:

  • Convince this person that your company can reap great benefits from standardization.
  • Get this person to commit to openly supporting you in your standardization effort.

Here are some pointers to keep your president from staring out the window or taking that opportune cell phone call in the middle of your meeting:

  1. Do not discuss the technical details of CAD.  Keep it general when it comes to nuts and bolts.

    Good: “I’ve got plans to integrate our standards into the software to make it easy for employees to use them”

    Bad: “I’ve got plans to use tool palettes that house our standard blocks so that users aren’t having to use the INSERT command and browse the server to create symbols.”

  2. Focus on business-related benefits.

    Good: “These new standards will make our users more efficient, reduce errors, and establish a standard of quality across all offices.”

    Bad: “With these new standards, we’ll finally be able to take advantage of cool features like dynamic blocks, tool palettes, and sheet set manager.”

  3. Express benefits in man-hours or currency.

    Good: “With new standards, we’ll be able to shave off about 8 hours of conversion time per project that dept X has to do to use dept Y’s drawings.”

    Bad: “We’re wasting a ton of time when dept X has to convert dept Y’s drawings just so they can use them.”

It’s not that your president is shallow or not in tune with the important issues, it’s just that he/she has his/her eye on a different area of company performance than you do.  Company managers are not moved by the coolest new features (as they shouldn’t be) but are concerned about business performance and profitability.  If anything, it would be an insult to ask for that person’s time and then ramble on about tool palettes or dynamic blocks, or Civil 3D styles.

Also, if you don’t understand the business benefits of standardization enough to convince someone else, then you need to think about it a little harder anyway.  Everything we do for a company boils down to two basic objectives: Make the company more money or save the company more money.  If you’re in a CAD management role, then you really only have the latter choice. 

Think about the reasons you want to standardize your company and throw away anything that has to do with “cool features”, “neat scripts”, etc.  Someday someone will ask you how the CAD standards are benefiting the business objectives of your company.  Your answer should be quick, decisive, and backed with examples.  Approach standardization with that end in sight.

So the meeting went great and now you have the president on board…so what does this do for your standardization effort?  Well imagine the opening statement of your first company CAD standards meeting:

With Support: “I’ve met with the president on our new company standards and he/she has agreed that this will be company policy on all new projects.” (better yet, the president opens the meeting by delivering this message in person)

Without Support:  “Here are the standards I’ve come up with and I’d like you to begin using them on all new projects.”

With upper management support, the fact that you’re standardizing becomes a done deal, although you may find that some of the details are up for debate.  Even if certain people are totally against the idea, they typically accept their fate.  After all, there’s no point in arguing with you…you are an agent of the president at this point.

Without clear, decisive support from the top, you should simply not proceed.  You’ll end up doing a ton of work only to see your house of cards crumble the first time someone decides standards are less important than something else.  If your president (or whoever) is not on board, all I can say is keep trying.  If after a few tries it’s obviously a lost cause, start updating your resume because you could probably find a better company to work for.

How do you get the rest of your company on board?  We’ll save that for next week.


  1. […] Standardizing Your Company – Part 3: Start at the Top (Eric Chappell @ – Part 3 in a series of posts talking about how to successfully standardize your company. […]

  2. […] last week’s post we looked at the importance of having the buy-in and support of upper management.  As you […]