What Does the Term ‘Lean’ Mean?

The term ‘lean’ is quite popular in various aspects of our life, from lifestyle discussions to business models. However, its meaning can significantly differ depending on the context in which it is used. Here, we examine the two most common meanings of ‘lean’ in different settings.

Firstly, in the context of lifestyle, fitness, or diet, ‘lean’ is used to describe a body physique or type of food. A lean body implies a physique with minimal fat and high muscle definition. For instance, when someone mentions a lean body, they are referring to a body primarily composed of muscles with a minimal amount of body fat. Oftentimes, this is a goal for fitness enthusiasts and athletes as it represents good health, appropriate diet, and sufficient exercise.

In the culinary world, lean refers to foods, particularly meat, that contain little to no fat. Lean meats include skinless chicken, turkey, and certain cuts of red meat. Similarly, when someone is on a lean diet, their meals typically include a high percentage of lean proteins and plant-based foods, limiting the intake of fats and sugar.

Secondly, on a completely different spectrum, ‘lean’ is a commonly used term in the business realm. Specifically, it is most recognized in the concept of lean manufacturing or lean production, which originated from the Toyota Production System in Japan. In this context, lean refers to creating more value with fewer resources. A lean organization understands customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously increase it. The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer through a perfect value creation process with zero waste.

In addition, the term ‘lean’ also cues into a startup business methodology known as the Lean Startup. This methodology advises startups to allocate their resources more efficiently and use validated learning to understand what consumers want. This methodology gained recognition with Eric Ries’ book, “The Lean Startup,” where lean is about learning what your customers really want and learning it quickly.

In conclusion, the meaning of ‘lean’ largely varies across different contexts. If it’s about health and fitness, it generally refers to low-fat physique or diet. However, in business, it speaks about efficient processes that generate more value with fewer resources. The versatility of this term makes it applicable in several areas of life, strengthening its relevance in our day-to-day conversations.