Words-Worth: Lean

You can't be too rich or too lean: a good motto for modern business. What does it mean?

by John Morrish
Last Updated: 27 Mar 2014

To be 'lean', literally, is to be lacking in fat: lean people, lean bacon, lean management. The word is Anglo-Saxon and was first used of cattle. It isn't always a good thing - no one likes lean years - but in business it is.

This started in the 1980s, with engineer John Krafcik's phrase 'lean production' to describe the waste-cutting system used by Toyota. Now, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur called Eric Ries is using the term for his Lean Startup movement.

Waste not, want not.

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