On the back of a cocktail napkin: An exploration of graphic definitions of Lean Construction Conference Paper uri icon


  • Quick descriptive sketches made on the backs of cocktail napkins are a tradition in the architectural profession and are representative of the visionary conversations that take place between business associates in relaxed venues where fresh ideas are sometimes first hatched. In this paper, we propose the use of this technique to better convey and capture the principles of the growing and evolving discipline of Lean Construction. Whether they occur in academic classrooms or professional worksites, exploratory conversations about Lean Construction also suggest there may be a need for an easy-to-understand, easy-to-represent graphic definition ("cocktail napkin sketch") that can quickly communicate key components of lean thinking to those wishing to understand and potentially implement lean. This paper shares an exploratory analysis of the results that emerged from cocktail napkin exercises administered three times from Feb 2011 to April 2012: at an IGLC mid-year meeting in New York, NY; at an LCI workshop in Houston, TX; and at an LCI-Academic Forum in Boulder, CO. Finally, the authors propose a graphic definition of Lean Construction, distilled from submissions made during these events that might serve as a potential starting point for future discussion and refinement.

author list (cited authors)

  • Rybkowski, Z. K., Abdelhamid, T. S., & Forbes, L. H.

publication date

  • January 2013