Standardizing Your Company – Part 9: Your Role in the Process

In last week’s post we took a look at how to get things done at (and between) meetings so that progress is made and your committee accomplishes more than just gaining a few collective pounds due to the free lunches it’s been enjoying. There’s another effective tool in getting things accomplished that is so important that I wanted to reserve discussion about it to a separate post…that tool is you.

So you’re the CAD Manager, maybe you don’t realize it because this is often not an official title.  If you’re the person everyone brings their CAD questions to, you’re the one reading the CAD blogs, or you’re the only one who cares enough about CAD to develop company standards…then you’re the CAD Manager.  Whatever your official title is, if you’re the person heading up the whole standardization initiative, then really this whole series has been for you.  On the other hand, if you’re not the person in charge you can still apply most, if not all of these principles as well.

Let’s take a look at this scenario…it’s your first committee meeting and it’s time to begin discussing the first item on The List, which we’ll say for the sake of discussion is layer names.  There are two ways you could start this meeting.

  1. Sit down and say “Anybody got any good ideas for layer names?”


  2. Sit down and say “I’ve done some research and it appears that the National CAD Standard is the most widely accepted and recognized naming system.  I’ve taken the recommendations from the NCS and generated a preliminary list of layer names based on the type of work that we do.  You’ve all got a copy of it and I’d like to work through this list and edit it as a group.”

Which approach do you think is going to yield the most progress by the end of the meeting?  By doing your homework prior to the meeting and showing up with the work half done, you’re going to accomplish several things:

  • You will have already steered the group down a path that you feel is right.  In this example, you’ve pretty much closed down the options of using a home-grown layer name system or something a new employee is pirating from his old company.  Not saying that NCS is the way to go…this is just an example.  The concept here is that you’ve made the best choice for your company and you’re starting off in that direction.  Caution: The committee may hate the direction you’ve chosen and reject it completely…that’s ok, because choosing to reject it is still a decision and still progress.  But, if you do your homework and truly keep the company’s best interests in mind, this will hardly ever happen.
  • You’ve given them lots of tangible material to discuss, analyze, and modify.  You have something to start with rather than a blank piece of paper.  Chances are, the committee is going to be fine with 90% of what you’ve come up with which means you’re 90% done before the meeting even starts.
  • You’ve put your experience and expertise to good use.  Chances are, you’re the most knowledgeable when it comes to CAD or you wouldn’t be in the position of heading up the effort.  Let the committee and the process benefit from that.
  • Debate on open-ended questions lasts much longer than yes/no decisions or a set number of choices.  I’ve learned long ago not to ask my kids what they want for lunch.  If I do, I get one guaranteed PB&J, one request for something we don’t have in the cupboard, and one painful endless cycle of choosing and mind-changing.  (That’s right…3 kids, and I’m not counting the 10-month old which makes 4!).  With the prep work you’ve done, you’ve avoided open-ended questions which is always a good thing.  Try to limit decisions to yes/no, or a list of choices.
  • At the end of the day you’ve still empowered the committee with making the choices.  You’re not forcing your ideas on them, just proposing them for consideration.  In most cases the response will be “Looks pretty good to me”.  The committee feels good because it made the choices and you feel good because they made the choices you wanted.  Everybody wins.

So in your role as facilitator of the committee, you can have a huge impact on progress if you so choose.  If you’re not the leader, you can still do the prep work and have a good chance of your ideas being accepted.  In this case, however, I’d run your ideas by the leader first in case he/she has already begun preparing something different.  If your ideas are solid, there’s a good chance that the leader will see this an opportunity to sit back and let someone else enjoy the hot seat for awhile.

Next week, we’ll talk about how to handle making your committee decisions official.

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