The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on July 12, 2010 · 4 comments


Aesop’s Fables present timeless lessons. As my mind thinks, I related these back to organizational lessons and to lean transformation, as I wrote about The Mice in Council before. One of the most famous phrases, even if people don’t really know the story, is The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs. Here’s the story:

A man and his wife had the good fortune to possess a Goose which laid a Golden Egg every day. Lucky though they were, they soon began to think they were not getting rich fast enough, and, imagining the bird must be made of gold inside, they decided to kill it in order to secure the whole store of precious metal at once. But when they cut it open they found it was just like any other goose. Thus, they neither got rich all at once, as they had hoped, nor enjoyed any longer the daily addition to their wife. Much wants more and loses all.

Of course, the primary lesson is one about greed. But I think there are a couple of other applications of this story.

Lesson 1: Just because something is working for you, doesn’t mean that more, more, more will work better. This is common when it comes to things such as kaizen events. “Hey, that was a great kaizen event that saved us $100,000. Let’s do 5 more but I want $150,000 for each of them next time.” That’s not always how it works. The opportunities themselves dictate the results. It’s not as simple as doing more. And if you over-rely on one method or tool, ultimately your lean journey will fail because you can’t support the events with the right genuine everyday behaviors.

Lesson 2: Understand why you are getting what you are getting. It is important to understand cause and effect. It is easy to just assume that the inside of the goose is golden. But if you don’t understand why you are getting golden eggs, you are more likely to make bad decisions than good ones. A lean organization is fundamentally a learning organization, but not learning information, learning cause and effect.

What is your favorite Aesop fable?

1 Kurt B. Carr July 12, 2010 at 7:21 am

Many times more truly does equal less. Repetition in the service of continuity is a good thing (this is the foundation of lean). Repetition in the service of change is ironic at best.

2 Chris Paulsen July 12, 2010 at 8:52 am

Great post, Jamie! Thanks for sharing.

All the best,
Chris Paulsen

3 leansim July 12, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I think the ant and the grasshopper is also a very appropriate Aesop fable describing the diference between short and long-term thinking!

4 Angelo Baratta February 21, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Hi Jamie,

Loved your goose and eggs analogy to Lean. Regards

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