Wednesday, 17 December 2008

What's the score?

For those of you who have attended a training course in the past, you will be familiar with the tradition of completing an evaluation form (aka happy sheet) prior to leaving on the last day. The forms that we have used for quite some time deal with issues such as courseware, course content, instructor, environment etc. Each item can be given a score from 1 (Unacceptable) to 9 (Excellent or Exceeded Expectations).

There tend to be two approaches to scoring amongst delegates. Those who will happily give straight 9s provided they have had a good course and learned some useful things. And those who rarely if ever give a 9 because in their book a 9 is 'the best course ever' and how do they know if they have just had the best course ever? The second approach often leads to several 7s and hardly a 9. Most trainers tend to prefer the former.

Since I am not on a bonus for high scores, I am happy with either approach provided a couple of 8s slip in (praise indeed !). One 8 amongst several 7s from a delegate can mean more to me than straight 9s from a delegate who has put 9s for everything including environment where the room was in a basement with no air conditioning and a boiler fit to burst!

Don't get me wrong. I would love to get straight 9s on every course. Especially as scores are evaluated  by the company and those with higher scores are seen to be 'high scorers!'. They must count for something surely?

Anyway, the reason for this post was as a result of a discussion on evaluation forms with my group last week and a memory that it triggered. It was of a score that I received that put everything into context.

Last year I delivered a standard MOC (Microsoft Official Curriculum course) in .NET development. A MS2555 is I recall. On the first morning I am going through the usual welcome and assessing expectations when one delegate (let's call him Aaron) suddenly launches into "I need to write an application when I get back to work next week and was hoping that you could tell me how I should go about writing it." .

As we had already established that he had NO previous real programming experience let alone any .NET, I said that I would rather not discuss anything relating to his project until Thursday because prior to that, he would have little chance of understanding any of my answers.

I suggested that he bring any of his design/code in by Wednesday in order to give me a little background. This he did, on Tuesday. He also explained over lunch that he was in 'real trouble!'. He had blagged his way into a job with a University in the midlands beginning with the letter 'L' convincing them he was an experienced developer and they had taken him on in order to develop an application that generated statistics.

Normally, I wouldn't get drawn into what was obviously consultancy. However he gave me the 'bunny in the headlights' look of someone who was going to go back to work on Monday and get caught out by Wednesday, only to get fired on Friday.

I didn't point out that anyone dumb enough to have employed him in the first place, probably wouldn't have noticed for a long time.

Anyway, I took his design (aka doodles/wishful thinking) away and did nothing with it until Wednesday evening. As I was working away (again) I found myself in a hotel room with his design, several cans of Fosters and a bag of Bombay mix. What else could I do? The alternative was an episode on New Tricks. And I had already seen it. Does anyone else here have a thing for Amanda Redman?

After 1 minute I knew that the guy had absolutely no chance of writing this application. I read on as I wanted to be able to point him in the right direction. After 5 minutes, I concluded that there was no way that I could tell him everything that he wanted to know AND have him understand it.

One can of Fosters later and I figured "why not?" By 2 am I had written it. It wasn't pretty the UI needed plenty of work. I used an XML file for the data store and I didn't waste any time on exception/error handling. After all, that stuff is for wimps!

I stuck it on a CD and went to bed with a righteous glow. Or was that the Fosters?

In the morning I told him that as I didn't think that I could explain everything that he needed to know, I had simply written it for him. The guy broke into tears and gave me a hug. "I had saved his life!". Actually I had probably saved his career but I wasn't about to split hairs.

Next day, he walks in with a card and a box of chocolates and looks a lot like my son looked like this weekend when he received a PS3 for his birthday!

Six hours later it's time for the evaluation forms. As you can imagine, I am feeling pretty confident. Guess what Aaron gave me? That's right, 7s!

Until this point, I saw a 7 as an insult. Since then I have come to appreciate that for some people, a 7 is as good as it gets and 8s and 9s are stuff of the gods!

I do hope that I have not started a trend of everyone giving 7s as my fellow trainers will never forgive me. If I have, then I will take the flak. Just as long as I get a few 8s and 9s thrown in to keep me ahead!

I wonder if Aaron is still 'getting away with it' ?

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"