“I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do.”

-Plato, Apology

I recently taught a CSPO class for a private client.  Within the first 20 minutes of the first day, the sponsor of the class pulled me aside and said “You really need to pick up the pace here.  You are starting to lose people.”  I politely acknowledged the feedback and resumed.  

Based on the comments I was hearing and the questions being asked, it was clear that this group was very new to Scrum.  Reading the body language and other non-verbal cues, I saw a different situation than the sponsor had communicated.

At the break, the sponsor came to me again and said “This is all nice and everything, but people are coming up to me to say that the class is moving too slow.  We really need to pick up the pace here.”

Being human, I was very frustrated.  I was ready to walk out of the class.  I hadn’t faced this kind of situation before; i.e. someone (or people) who were so closed-minded and impatient that they couldn’t wait to see what else the class had to offer.  

I took a moment to think and compose myself and I said “Let’s wait and see what the feedback says at the end of the day.  What I noticed when we did the ‘Prior Experience’ activity is a couple people have prior knowledge and experience with Agile.  This is an entry-level certification and assumes no prior knowledge.  So, the foundational level knowledge that is part of the certification is just a review for those couple people.  However, we need to level-set for all the others who have not had previous experience or knowledge.”

Additional comments were made, which I listened to but chose to ignore.

At the end of the first day, I collected feedback about the class using the “What was Good?/What would make it GREAT?” exercise.  As with all of my other classes and many other classes I have observed with other trainers, the feedback was net neutral.  Someone writes “Love the exercises” and someone else writes “Fewer exercises.”  Someone writes “Love the opportunity to learn things as a group.” and someone else writes “Need more instructor lecture and textbook based learning.”  Someone writes “Pace was perfect.” and someone else writes “Make it faster paced.”

I circled back with the sponsor on the second day of class and they admitted that they shouldn’t have made that statement the day before without seeing how the rest of the class was laid out.  I mentioned that perhaps this is why their attempts to implement Agile have not been as successful as they would have liked; because they aren’t being patient enough to allow REAL learning to happen.

During both days of the class, my colleague and I wore name tags so that everyone in the class could remember our names.  At the end of the second day, one of the manager level types who had been complaining about how slow-paced the class was, came up to my colleague and said something like:

“See, what you and… um, your colleague, what’s his name… need to realize is that we here at [xyz corporation] learn 50 times faster than the average human being.  So, you really need to get to the point more quickly in these sessions.”

When I heard this, I just thought to myself “Wow, you didn’t learn a damn thing, did you?  Maybe if you had been more focused on listening and having an open mind and less on how much of a genius you think you are, you would have understood the points which the others in the class, who gave us positive feedback, were able to get.  Oh, and I think the ‘average person’ would have probably been able to remember my name, which has been in the Top 10 list of boy names for the United States in the last 50 years; especially after seeing it right in front of their face for two whole days…”

Don’t take my sarcasm as anger.  I actually think this was hilarious, the irony of the situation.  It has given me a great story which has been entertaining for others to hear.

Ultimately, the take-away here is, like the quote states:  The person who realizes that they aren’t really a genius is more of a genius than the one who adopts a condescending attitude toward others based upon their perception of their own superiority.