I am not sure where, or when it was when I first heard someone refer to letting the egg role off the table. For me it has turned into an urban legend, somewhere in time the first egg rolled off the table and everyone said “look that egg rolled of the table and it has made a terrible mess”. The challenge is to know when to let the egg roll and when to catch it.
So what does it mean to let the egg roll of the table ?
Well think of it this way, what if you are someone who never lets the egg roll off the table, every time things start to get close to the edge you dive in and save the day, or save the egg. You make sure there is never a problem, never an issue, all the eggs in your carton are pristine with no cracks or damage. Is that really possible, let alone sustainable. As they say “life happens”, you are not always in control of everything around you.
Years ago I had an young energetic systems engineer working for me. Lets call him Simon. Simon was great, very friendly, a real people person, he would go the extra mile for the client, there was just one problem, he had yet to learn how to say “no”, or even “maybe, let me check and get back to you”. The challenge was that Simon’s time was charged to the clients he worked for. His time was allocated based on targeted billable hours, so maximizing billable hours was key. When Simon was at a client location to complete project A, the client would also say, “Hey Simon, while you are here can you also look into B and C”. Simon would always say, yes, I can help, until one day……
One day Simon found himself in my office talking about letting the egg roll off the table. I did not have an egg, all I had was a tacky old coffee mug. I told Simon that sometimes you need to let the egg roll off the table, you need to let the pain be felt, let the client know that they can’t always draw you into extra work. So taking the coffee mug, holding it over the edge I said to Simon, “What
will happen if I drop this cup over the edge”, he said, it will shatter into a million pieces. So I let it drop, off it went sailing to the ground at mach II. It hit the ground (concrete) and it exploded into many pieces.
Simon was shocked, he was speechless. I am sure he thought I had lost my mind. I told him, “I knew that would happen and I was prepared for the outcome”. So Simon learned a valuable lesson that day, letting the egg roll off the table is okay, as long as you are prepared for the outcome.
Are you ready to let the egg roll ?