On being lean

As defined by Wikipedia, lean manufacturing is “…a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination.”. This has affected a lot the principles behind the launch and growth of the Lean Startup movement – and especially the work of Steve Blank and Eric Ries that seems to have started this all.

I discovered the lean principles by reading The Lean Startup book. This is the kind of stuff that you either love or hate – and I think that I completely fell in love with what Eric was describing by the very few first pages of the book. I spent several nights reading the book while everyone else at home was asleep, trying hard to keep my eyes open in order to grab and digest all the valuable messages that the book manages to convey.

Essential bedtime reading…

You see, Agro-Know is by definition a start up: as Steve Blank defines it in “The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company”, a start up is still in search of a sustainable business model. And we have been more than looking for a sustainable business model; we have been trying to make a complete transformation of our mentality and thinking in order to switch from a project-oriented organisation into a company that is offering some meaningful products and services to the society. And by meaningful, the Lean Startup guys mean something that would solve a real, pressing problem of someone. And the sustainable business model is discovered only after continuous interactions with customers that help you understand who your customer is, what is the important problem that you are trying to solve, how the solution should look like, and -most important- if they (or someone else) would pay for developing and delivering this solution to the problem.

So after this book, I discovered another and another and another… And a wealth of online resources and reading material has been revealed to me, which I tried to digest as fast as possible. And then to apply it to our product development process: a very slow, traditional, waterfall, resource-consuming process that seemed to be navigating us safely to uncertainty, exhausting our remaining runway. We had to change our approach. Immediately. Which was the point where a classic nightmare of Agro-Know’ers started, since as usual “Nikos came with yet-another-sexy-but-incomprehensible-idea-that-he-did-not-explain-well-enough-to-us”…

My fav business modelling tool for November: the Lean Canvas

But Agro-Know has a star team (top quality: patience and compassion for people like me 😉 ) that found a way to process, understand and apply a lean thinking approach in our product development. Right now, we are having three product ideas being developed in parallel following the Running Lean practical method of Ash Maurya. And as new approaches, methods, guidelines and toolkits are coming out, we will be among the first to look at them, assess them, adapt them and test them. Because we embrace, practice, and enjoy change as a way to improve ourselves and the things that we are doing.

Which takes me to the topic of our culture and values: an area where more inspiring discoveries have been made, by looking at what other people are doing. But this is something to discuss in another post (and I can hear some people thinking loudly “OMG, here is yet-another-sexy-but-…” 🙂 )


  1. We have material to convince you, we know it well enough to “sell” it, but adding to what Nikos M. said, it’s better if you read 2-3 pages about it, and see how it could fit to your everyday job and tasks. You will find lots of things that are useful, as was the case (and still is) with design thinking. My suggestion is, apart from the apparent usefulness for product development, keep the parts of the Lean Approach that can fit your work process and apply them, tomorrow…


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