‘Lean’ has become a popular approach to public service reform. In the current era of reduced public spending, it promises to maintain service productivity, improve utilisation and maintain quality. Drawing on literature and empirical data, this paper will argue that the implementation of Lean to date has been defective – it has focused on the technical tools of implementation without an over-arching business logic to validate it. This paper will argue that Lean can only achieve its potential in public services when based within a public service dominant business logic. Without this, Lean is doomed to fail both as a theory and a set of practices.