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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Is the glass half full or half empty?

I was with a consultant the other day doing a training event and he said to a small group of us that he had a simple Lean definition. He drew a picture on a piece paper of a glass of water like this

He asked “Is the glass half full or half empty?” The optimists will likely say it is half full and the pessimists it is half empty. Maybe some will say it depends on whether you are pouring or drinking. The Lean Thinker says the glass is twice as large as it needs to be (my answer). And to that the consultant said “you’re right”.

Lean is about learning to “see” the wastes in front of us. It is a mindset of challenging status quo. A case of questioning the question you might say. It would be easy when presented with this example to say the glass is half full or half empty but if you observed the situation you might question how much water is needed. What does the customer want? If you understand the value from the customer’s point of view then you be in a position to eliminate everything else (the waste of the excess cup). This line of thinking is why the Lean Thinker questions why the glass is too large.

This is a great question to add into various training opportunities to lighten the atmosphere and re-iterate the Lean way. The audience will enjoy it and remember it.


  1. Excellent, Tim! I love this question and will gladly poach it for my own use!