A Vehicle Analogy for ViewPoint

Learning to use the ViewPoint process is like learning to drive a vehicle when you currently know how to ride a bicycle. You may have seen others driving around and may have even looked into one of the vehicles. It looks as if it would be something you could use. You finally decide you want to do this.

"I can do this."

There are three typical ways to get started that are almost always doomed to failure. The first involves those who have read about ViewPoint or maybe even talked to someone who has done it. They want to go out and do it all on their own. In most cases they have no real idea what they are getting into nor really how to go about getting the job done. It seemed so simple from a distance. Almost all of this group will fail in their efforts.

The second group are people who have just heard about ViewPoint want you to let them do everything. "Just give me the keys and a five minute overview and I will be OK." If they have any success at all it will be by learning by trial and error. They know how to ride a bicycle and believe that driving the vehicle will be similar enough that they don’t need any help learning to drive. The most common reaction when they finally give up is either "ViewPoint doesn’t really work," or "ViewPoint isn’t right for us."

The third group expects you to simplify the teaching (or teach a vastly simplified process) to a point where they can learn it with a very small time commitment. You can do this but only by giving up a tremendous amount of the potential benefits. This is not a case where for 20% of the training gives you 80% of the skills. It is more like 2% of the training doesn’t give you a measurable amount of the skills. I can teach you to open the door on the car and sit in the seat, but so what.

"OK, let’s go."

Some people want to get where they are going and want us to assure that we will get them there. We accomplish this by driving the car with them as a passenger. They can learn what it is like to travel in the car, but they will not be learning to drive the car. They will watch us drive the car and may even think they can do it just because they have watched us drive the car. This is by far the fastest way for someone new to ViewPoint to get results. It is not nearly as satisfying as driving yourself, but if you already have enough things to concentrate on then this relieves you of having one more. You will not know how to drive, but you may have more evidence that you need to learn how to drive. The end result will be better than if you didn’t use ViewPoint but not as good as if you took the time and learned how to drive yourself, with assistance. This method does minimize the impact to an already planned project that is tight on people while giving some of the ViewPoint benefits.

"Let me drive."

We can teach you how to drive a car. You will not be able to drive as fast initially as an experienced driver. You will, however, soon be able to drive without paying an instructor to sit right next to you. There are many things involved in learning to drive a car. It is not something you can get a few minutes of instruction and then be turned loose. It is also important to learn to drive in the car you will be using. I can teach you in a simulator, but when you get back to the real world, you may not even recognize how to get into the car. I can avoid this some if I create a custom simulator for each team and tailor it to look just like the real project. We have found it much better to just use the real project. You need to place some artificial bounds during the initial training and reasonable limits on how much you do the first time. It is best to work with the real project. Initially, you will just be sitting in the driver's seat and looking at the controls. The instructor will be doing all of the real driving. You will be getting a feel because you will mirror many of the instructor’s movements. Initially you will not understand why you do something a particular way. Eventually you may understand more why, but there are likely many things that you will not truly understand until you begin to master the process. This may take years of practice.

Once you have learned how to drive one type of vehicle, it is easy to drive a very similar vehicle. If the vehicle is too different than what you have been driving, you may find yourself unable to get full use of the vehicle without some additional help. It could change enough that you wouldn’t even recognize it as a vehicle. Someone who knows how to drive a car may not recognize anything when they climb in the cockpit of a jet plane or on the seat of a dirt bike. If you are using ViewPoint in the same area that you originally learned it, the skill transfers readily to similar projects. If, however, you want to use it in a very different area then you will need to learn a completely different way of doing things and a new set of things to do. This is similar to learning on a different type of project from your real work. If you learn on pizza’s or toaster’s and try to go back to your job and develop and commercialize a new polymer, it is like teaching you to drive your new mustang convertible by using a go-kart. If I try to explain things without showing you, you probably won’t really understand a thing I tell you. If I don’t understand your particular situation real well, I may describe for you how to drive a ‘65 Mustang 2+2 when you have a brand new 1995 Mustang convertible. Whenever things become artificial, you run the risk of developing useless skills.

"Sure I’ll teach you."

Just because you know how to drive a car doesn’t mean you know enough to teach others how to drive, even if they are just going to drive your car. If they are driving a car significantly different from your car then all of the discussion above applies as well. If they are learning to drive your car, or one very similar, you still may not know enough to teach them how to drive the car. Remember, you didn’t really understand the big picture and all of the nuances when you were being taught. There was a lot going on that you didn’t yet know enough to even be aware of. Usually, when you train someone in this fashion, they pick up a large number of bad habits. It then takes longer to change the bad habits than it would have taken to teach it right in the first place.

"Something’s wrong here."

Some of the symptoms that something is wrong, also compare to silly situations in driving a car. For example, I can drive a car (with a standard transmission) just using the starter motor. I won’t go very fast and it will be real noisy and jerky and won’t last long, but it will move and I am "driving." This is a lot like companies that try to do everything in one small matrix. They spend a lot of time and money on this great car and only get a fraction of the value out of their investment. They often are quick to declare that ViewPoint isn’t very effective or useful.

Some drivers may learn to get it into first gear and see that as a wonderful improvement. It is. But it still travels slowly making a lot of noise as they wrap up the engine to get more speed out of it. Just push our people harder and we’ll make this thing work yet.

Some drivers only know how to drive in top gear. It is almost impossible to get started and when you finally do get going you drive right on by where you should have slowed down and turned off. This is a lot like a team enamored by the matrices. They have a real hard time getting started because they want everything to be just right. Once they get going, they are too interested in what the matrices are doing. They pass right on by what they were trying to accomplish.

"What do you use this one for?"

There are many different kinds of vehicles. Each has a purpose and if you misuse a vehicle, you cannot blame the vehicle if it is difficult or just plain doesn’t work.

Product Development using ViewPoint is like a Chevrolet mid-size car. All around basic good transportation.

Service ViewPoint is like a sports car. A little faster and a lot more concern about the image. It is much more a personal choice and the differences between models can be much greater.

If you are looking for a short ride and speed and not a lot of extras then you need a motorcycle, which is like Problem Solving using ViewPoint. It can get to a lot of places that cars can’t. It is generally less complicated, requires a very different set of skills to operate, and offers the driver much less protection than a car.

When you start to use ViewPoint for Functional or SBU Strategic Planning, you are talking about a helicopter. The whole system of what you are doing is different, but you can see a lot more from a helicopter than you can from a car.

Finally, using ViewPoint to help with enterprise wide or corporate strategic planning is like a jet plane. You need to cover a lot more area with a lot less detail, and quickly. The way you do it is very different from a car. Even if you know how to drive lots of kinds of cars, you don’t necessarily know how to fly a jet plane. You also usually don’t start out learning to fly the jet directly. You learn on smaller planes' first. A crash in a jet usually does a lot more damage than a crash in a car.

"What does it say on that license plate?"

I hope we haven’t "driven you over the edge" with this analogy, but it does help to understand something new by relating it to familiar experiences. This analogy came to mind when I was trying to teach my second son to drive a car we had just purchased. He couldn’t see why dad had to check him out in the car first. He already knew how to drive that car. The very next statement was "Now how do you turn on the headlights?" Our third son was already 16 and was explaining to me how he didn’t need any instruction. He had been watching us drive and could see that it wasn’t very difficult. Just let him get his license and he would start driving right away. Yea, right. In his dreams.

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