Change Happens12 Nov, 2014 By: Robert Green
Change is inevitable, so how can you make it easier to manage?
Change, especially in our technical environment, is something we CAD managers always have to plan for, but how can we best do so? As I pondered change management, I started to think about all the responsibilities of a CAD manager — not just software maintenance — and how they all change over time. How do we plan for these changes and keep maximum control over the process?
I've developed an approach to change management that I've been using with clients for about a year now that I'd like to share with you as well. My approach should help you better understand how to prioritize your duties and improve your CAD environment over the long term. Here goes.
The Change Paradox
When I started thinking about technical change, two conflicting yet equally true sayings came to mind:
The only thing that is constant is change.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. (A French phrase that means, "The more things change, the more they stay the same.")
The first tells us to always expect change, while the second tells us that things really don't change. So, which one is right? Well, perhaps they are both right. For example, the software I use has changed tremendously over the years, but the process of implementing software really hasn't. So, things have changed, yet they really haven't.
It turns out that by dividing your workload into tasks that change rapidly (or hardly at all) and considering how often those tasks are required in your day-to-day environment, a greater understanding of your workload emerges. A great way to visualize these priorities is to construct a radar (spider) chart with all your tasks, frequency of need, and frequency of change, such as the one below.
A radar chart can help CAD managers visualize priorities.
I based this data on my own analysis of the tasks I perform on an ongoing basis (project management, training, and user software support) and less frequently (user hardware support and software updates). I've also determined how much my processes have to change over time to perform these tasks.
You can create your own radar chart (or bar chart, such as the one below) using Microsoft Excel, or you can simply scribble it out on paper, but do take the time to think about it. Now, let's draw some conclusions.
This bar graph is another way to chart the information for a clear picture of frequency of need and degree of change for each category.
When software updates happen, they require a tremendous amount of process change but, thankfully, they don't happen all that often (represented by a high red value and low blue value on the radar chart). Clearly, software updates are very disruptive to both the CAD manager and the user community, so a game plan for dealing with that disruptive change is critical.
Hold onto this thought — we'll come back to it after we've analyzed our other tasks.
Training is a process that requires an ongoing effort and is thus needed more frequently (thus the high blue value on the chart). However, the process of training requires relatively little process change as the tools and methods used to train users barely change at all, and examples used for training exercises only change when software itself changes (all of which explain the low red value on the chart).
The conclusions I've drawn regarding training and change include:
- As long as I have good tools to create handouts, videos, and lessons for users, I can deal with new software as it arrives.
- If I document changes in new software as I research them, I can create new training materials almost effortlessly as I go along.
- As long as I have good training technique, I will always be able to train users effectively.
- Any change that I must implement will always happen faster and more smoothly if users are well trained.
Action Item: Getting your training tools and methods in order is crucial for change management!
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