Getting Up To Speed

This is an amazing phrase. You are at XYZ corp and they are designing the Amazetron. Various experts who know nothing of the project are invited to attend a design meeting. So first you put on a one-hour presentation to "get them up to speed". Or you are putting on a course at the University of W and want to attract students who don't have the knowledge to take advantage of it. So first you put on a one-day course to "get them up to speed".

There are two possibilities here. One is that actually you can learn anything in one hour/day, and experience is an illusion. The other is that you should not ask questions based on not knowing things. In the former case, you might as well "get up to speed" later, so stay away. In the latter, you will learn nothing, so stay away.


Also known as "level-set"!

Also seen in non-OOP, non-C++, non-whatever shops, where management wants to jump on a bandwagon. They send a few developers to a 1-week C++ or 1-week OOP class or seminar to "get them up to speed" on C++ or OOP. 1-week, and poof! Instant guru!


Who is offering these classes? Found a few good links searching for Consultant but I'm convinced there must be better.

--MartineDevos (manager among other things)

Warning: Shameless plug -- Um, I do (and others, I'm sure). I work with Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA or NVCC) teaching "Continuing Education" (another phrase for non-credit/practical) courses for companies or professionals. This semester, starting June 1, 1999, I'll teach Intro to Perl and then in July/August Intro to Smalltalk (Each course is one day a week for four hours after work, each course lasts five weeks). I also do Java work and teach advanced classes, such as Java Beans, Advanced Java, C++, and others. I've been teaching for 10 years now -- DouglasAuclair

I believe the metaphor comes from the practice of synchronizing rotating machinery before applying power. Anyone who has ever double clutched a vehicle knows that while in neutral the motor can be used to bring the input side of the gearbox up to speed before a downshift. Of course double clutching is pointless unless the car is already moving and has its motor running.

By analogy I could fairly say that I got up to speed when I read nine chapters of a Tcl book in an afternoon so that I could use that extension language in a client's project. I didn't expect to gain any experience that afternoon. I just needed to acquire some arcane skills as quickly as possible so that I could apply the experience I already had. My motor was already running.

Tcl was meant to be learned quickly. Quantum physics was not. Nobody I know speaks of getting up to speed in quantum physics. -- WardCunningham

I did have one extremely bright boss who asked for a couple of chemical thermodynamics textbooks so he could "get up to speed" on a project of mine. Despite his PhD. from Harvard in solid-state physics, chemical thermodynamics did not lend itself to quick study.

Around here we use the phrase to mean "management-level understanding." No details, just the glossy surface stuff -- KenMeltsner
I don't understand the logic. I can certainly learn something in an hour or a day; that doesn't mean experience is an illusion.

I might read a Wired article on search engines. I don't believe I now know everything required to build a search engine, but neither do I believe my time was wasted. I should have a better idea of what the aims of a search engine are, and what kinds of problems arise, and some of the basic approaches people have tried to solve the problems. If my boss asked me to write an engine this afternoon, I can explain why it's probably going to take a lot longer then that while still retaining some credibility.

When tackling a new subject there's often a basic kernel which you need in order to put bits into context and - yes - ask questions. If I've learnt that, it's not true that I've "learnt nothing." I'll have aquired some of the tools I need to get some experience.

Whence this logic that if it only takes a day, you might as well postpone it? If it only takes a day, why not today? Why not take advantage of a lecturer who is presumably skilled at teaching?

I'm sorry, this anti-pattern escapes me completely. -- DaveHarris

I have been fortunate or wise enough to avoid design reviews on topics I have no clue about. I can second Bruce's scepticism on that. Regarding quick-dip learning, I offer AllOfEuropeInJustOneWeek. Bruce's comment is not that learning cannot start in one hour, but that giving a 1-hour quick-dip in a topic as "getting up to speed" is not sufficient for a design review or whatever task normally follows it. One is in fact not Up To Speed after one hour. One is beginning to creep along after one hour in a new topic.

My feeling is that a design review is properly examining two questions: the abstract Quality of the design, and the fitness of the design to the particular domain. When you bring in outside experts, you are bringing them in for their expertise in one (if you're lucky, both) of these areas. When the outside experts are experts in abstract Quality, an hour-long presentation will not qualify them to judge fitness to domain, but will qualify them to understand the tradeoffs made by the design team.

Of course, there's always the case in which the outside experts don't understand Quality, either. In that case, you may be bringing them "up to speed" to save Big Wheels from feeling that they are making fools of themselves in public.

When trying to convey things to people I try to understand what I can about their experiences. Then I take a two pronged attack, explaining how it is like what they already know and how it is unlike what they already know. -- MichaelFeathers

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