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Back in my university days I lived in a rented bedsitter over a bakery. An excellent solution, since the rent was cheap, the baker was friendly, and I regularly received free, freshly baked bread. 😉

One day as I was down in the shop to check if there was any mail for me (in the days of snail mail. Yes, I am that old), I spoke to the baker’s wife and one of her friends, a retired cleaning lady. The old woman had cleaned up in a public school (note to English readers: A public school in Denmark is a school run by the public, not a privately owned school:-)) and told me this story about the time she was sent on a training course to learn cleaning.

At that time she had been cleaning rooms for 20 years so it is questionable just how much she could learn at a one-week course but it was decided that it was her turn to receive some extra education, which everybody in the Danish public sector is entitled to every once in a while.

So, she went to some property where a lot of cleaning ladies and gentlemen were instructed in best procedures on how to wash floors and so on. As part of the training everybody had to wash a floor so that the teachers could observe them and see what they did right, and what they did wrong. Everybody had a target – they had to be able to clean so-and-so many units per hour.

After this exercise the old lady was castigated by teachers and co-trainees alike – SHE WORKED WAY TOO FAST!! “Are you crazy?”, they asked her, “If you work that fast, they’ll expect every one of us to work that fast as well.”

She could only tell them that she had not (in her own mind) been working very fast; she had taken her time to do the job properly…

Which left me wondering… What kind of sense does it make to ask the best and most efficient to slow down, so that they may not shine above the average and the sub-average?