An awkward silence follows my question. My client, saucer-eyed, looks as if on the verge of speaking. He opens his mouth, closes it again. He is flabbergasted, unable to come up with an adequate reply. I ask again, now addressing all attendees in the meeting.
‘Does anyone else know how long it takes for a chicken to hatch an egg?’
The drafting technician – a tall, stringy man with a grey beard and a worn-out jumper – has not said a word since the start of the meeting. He chuckles when our eyes meet.
‘You know the answer, don’t you?’ I encourage him with a smile.
He nods and answers in a clear voice: ‘About 21 days.’
Thank goodness, this man will make my point. This will be as easy as shelling peas – or eggs, for that matter.
‘And how long will it take when I put the egg in an incubator?’ I ask the technician.
He shrugs and replies: ‘About 21 days.’ He chuckles again: he knows exactly what I’m getting at.
I promptly ask him my next question: ‘And if I put three chickens on that egg, how long will it take to hatch then?’
He smiles broadly and says: ‘About 21 days.’
‘Okay’, I continue, ‘and what if I raise the temperature to, say, 70 degrees Celsius, then what? How long will it take?’
The technician thinks for a moment, his eyes aglow with amusement. ‘Then the egg won’t hatch at all.’
I lean back and focus on my client again, who sheepishly returns my look. ‘You see, this man knows how it works. I tell you it will take about 13 weeks to develop the electronics for your product. Adding more managers or developers won’t make a difference. It will still take about 13 weeks. If you think you can get things done quicker, you will be left empty-handed.’
We ended up finishing the project in 14 weeks. Ever since, my client and I get on like a house on fire. Upon completion of the project, the drafting technician walks up to me and gives a vice-grip handshake. In his other hand, he holds a box of eggs. ‘Here you go, fresh eggs from my chickens. Enjoy!’