I want to share another lesson (here was the first) I learned from Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Dr. Covey defines effectiveness as a balance of production and production capacity (“P/PC balance”). To explain what he means by that phrase, he shares Aesop’s fable of the goose that laid the golden eggs.

The fable is the story of a poor farmer who one day discovers in the nest of his pet goose a glittering golden egg. At first, he thinks it must be some kind of trick. But as he starts to throw the egg aside, he has second thoughts and takes it in to be appraised instead.

The egg is pure gold! The farmer can’t believe his good fortune. He becomes even more incredulous the following day when the experience is repeated. Day after day, he awakens to rush to the nest and find another golden egg. He becomes fabulously wealthy; it all seems too good to be true.

But with his increasing wealth comes greed and impatience. Unable to wait day after day for the golden eggs, the farmer decides he will kill the goose and get them all at once. But when he opens the goose, he finds it empty. There are no golden eggs — and now there is no way to get any more. The farmer has destroyed the goose that produced them.


So, in this case the golden eggs are the production (P) and the goose represents the production capacity (PC). You need a balance of both of these to have long term success. Focusing just on the golden eggs at the cost of the goose will leave you without the ability to receive more.

Manufacturing Example
The same thing happens in manufacturing. If a manager knew that she was up for a promotion, she could choose to run the factory day and night at top capacity. There would likely be amazing production during this time period. The manager would get her promotion and all would be wonderful. Right?

Well not so much for the factory and whoever replaces her. During this time period, the focus was so heavily on production that production capacity was hurt. Maybe the other factory employees are burnt out, machines have not been maintained, and in general the factory has lost some of its long term ability to produce. That’s not good.


Education Example
So, let’s consider what this could look like in education. Schools including the teachers, front office staff, principals, and utility people are the production capacity. They work together to create the production: students who love learning.

Sometimes, it feels like districts are so focused on production, that they neglect production capacity. I have seen many districts where so many new initiatives are adopted that is seems like teachers are implementing every program under the sun. Sure, initial results may seem great. But it often results in a staff that is burnt out from initiative overload.

I’ve literally seen districts where multiple administrators quit mid-year or get life threateningly sick from the stress. At some point you have to take a step back and think about whether you no longer have a balance of production and production capacity.


To be clear, I’m not saying that forcing school staff members to grow is a bad thing. What I am saying is that you need to have balance. This requires checking in on the well being of your goose/factory/school to make sure everything is alright. Without that, you could very well destroy it.


  1. Our district has discussed this balance in many of our recent leadership meetings. This is an important reminder and I always appreciate your insight.

  2. My school has been promoting SEW (Social Emotional Wellness) for teachers and staff this year. Before school began it seemed wise and well intentioned. A few months in, I’m questioning myself? What am I doing to make myself a better person/teacher? and is it enough?

    • Interesting. Maybe you can come back closer to the end of the year and share any other reflections after completing a year?

  3. I have called this problem the buffet line issue. Often your eyes are much bigger than your stomach meaning you take so much on your plate that looks so appealing only to result in stuff falling off or being left behind.

  4. In my school we have a new Principal and he is definitely leading from the front with work/life balance. He has even encouraged us not to look at our emails on the weekend and not to expect a reply from others if you send an email on the weekend!

  5. Knowing you wrote this years ago along with my recent resignation from my teaching post is leaving me reflective. I can not agree with you more. My heart aches for those who are still being harmed by a system that seems to be unaware and/or unfeeling toward diminishing its employees.

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