What is Lean?

What is Lean?

In order to conduct research on something, you have to be absolutely clear on what that something actually is. In this regard Lean presents a bit of a problem. There is no clear definition of it in the literature. There are many diverse definitions. Furthermore, you can guarantee that if you ask twenty people to define Lean , you will get twenty different answers. We can, however, identify certain characteristics. Three that I would propose are that:

1. Lean is polymorphic – a long word for saying it exists in different forms (hence the range of definitions out there)

2. Lean is dynamic – it has and continues to change over time

3. Lean is contentious – meaning it continues to attract criticism and notoriety

Collectively these characteristics render Lean indefinable and explain why it is such a poorly defined construct in the literature. However what is more interesting is the effect of these characteristics and how they relate to each other. For example, it may be that Lean’s polymorphism is a consequence of its evolution over time or that Lean’s contention fuels its’ success. Whatever your views, it continues to attract attention and interest well beyond manufacturing shopfloors.