› MANAGEMENT using fewer employees or less money in order to decrease waste, while continuing to operate effectively: Companies are downsizing, aiming to be leaner and more efficient, with demands on employees for greater productivity. With the application of lean management principles, suppliers and distributors have streamlined their processes.lean enterprise/operation/organization When it comes to costs, they pride themselves on running a lean operation.get/become leaner The pack-houses and their workers have had to become leaner. lean retailers/suppliers
› if a period of time is lean, there is not enough money or business at that time: lean period/times/years Funding has been increased to some programs suffering from several years of lean budgets.
› if costs, goods for sale, materials, or quantities of workers are lean, they are very low, or kept as low as possible: Cold weather across the U.S. signaled a surge in demand for natural gas products at a time when inventories are uncomfortably lean. Working quickly and cheaply, with lean staffs and even leaner budgets, contract manufacturers have long played a supporting role in the computer business. leanness noun [U] › Leanness means eliminating all waste, including time, and ensuring a smooth and predictable output.