Team Canvas Basic: Instructions

Alexey Ivanov
5 min readJul 7, 2023

Objective

Team Canvas Basic is a strategic framework that helps team members to kick off projects and align on a common vision. Based on our experience with startups and creative groups, it is made to smoothly start collective projects, let people learn about each other, and accumulate enough momentum to get going.

Team Canvas Basic works best at the following touchpoints:

  • creating a team;
  • kicking off a project;
  • welcoming new team members (e.g. freelancer joining the team);
  • basic team alignment meeting.

Example: Team Canvas Basic

Onboarding team members

It’s a good idea to get team members on board before using Team Canvas Basic. Here are a few ideas of how you might introduce the framework:

Case:
Starting a team

Hey guys! We’re starting a team and many of us have never worked with each other before. I’ve come across this handy tool, Team Canvas Basic, that helps team members to learn most basic things about each other and get aligned on their goals and expectations. The meeting should take about half an hour. Should we try it out?

Case:
Welcoming a team member

Hey guys, we have Marie joining the team this week. I thought it might be useful for all of us to take Marie into details with a short Team Canvas session, so we all are on the same page about our goals, roles and team culture. What do you think?

Case:
Basic team alignment

Hey guys! I was thinking that we could spend some time to structure the way we work together. There is a good tool for that called Team Canvas. It might help us understand what we do and why, where we aim at and what our guiding principles are, so we are more aligned as a team. What would you say if we schedule half an hour meeting to quickly go through Team Canvas steps?

Running The Session

  • Duration: 30–45 minutes
  • Participants: 2–8
  • Facilitation: team lead or team member

Materials:

  • Team Canvas Basic recreated on a whiteboard (Miro, Figjam, etc.), or on a big enough piece of paper (e.g. flipchart paper or A0/A1).
  • Blocks of sticky notes, one for each participant, different colors.
  • Sharpies or pens to write on stickies (use thick enough pens so everyone can see the writing).
  • A device with a timer function.

Running the session

Introduce the team canvas as a tool to align the team members and get better at understanding the goals, roles, and values of your team.

Go through each step with the team, making sure you ask the questions for each segment. Encourage people to write their answers on stickies and talk about them with the team. Make sure to agree on all fields.

Use a timer for each step to apply some time pressure so the team really focuses on getting to the point in each section discussion.

If some conversations take a rather long time or seem to touch upon bigger issues, consider parking those questions during the Team Canvas session and planning a separate meeting to address them specifically.

1. Goals [5 minutes]

Ask the team members to agree on common goals and mention their personal goals for the project.

Questions:

  • What do we as a group really want to achieve? What is our key goal that is feasible, measurable, and time-bounded?
  • What are our personal goals that we want to share with each other?

Examples:

  • Become the leading car-sharing company in our region by XXXX.
  • Create a 100M company in the Internet of Things by fall XXXX.

2. Roles & Skills [5 minutes]

Ask people to put their names on stickies, as well as their roles. If a person has multiple roles, use separate post-its.

Questions:

  • What are our names?
  • What are the roles we have in the team?
  • How are we called as a team?

Examples:

  • Max: CEO; Marie: Design & Programming
  • Name of the team: BoldCar

3. Purpose [10 minutes]

Ask the team to go one step beyond their common goal, and ask them why they do what they do.

Questions:

  • Why are we doing what we are doing in the first place?
  • What is something more important, which makes us pursue our common goal?

Examples:

  • Create a positive impact on people’s lives through social innovation
  • Make people’s lives easier and stress-free through innovation in the field of the Internet of Things

4. Values [5 minutes]

Ask the team what are the core values — the most important principles — that they want to share within the team. The team should agree on values, so everyone accepts the final set.

Questions:

  • What do we stand for?
  • What are the guiding principles?
  • What are the common values that we want to be at the core of our team?

Examples:

  • Trust
  • Creativity
  • Quality
  • Transparency
  • Mutual understanding
  • Equality
  • Respect

5. Rules & Activities [10 minutes]

Ask the team to agree on common rules and activities. Think of this as of outcome of the previous sections: a concrete set of rules and activities they want to implement.

Questions:

  • What are the rules we want to introduce after doing this session?
  • How do we communicate and keep everyone up to date?
  • How do we make decisions?
  • How do we execute and evaluate what we do?

Examples:

  • Keeping things within the group confidential
  • Weekly status updates
  • Communication over Slack + Skype for calls
  • Dinners together every second week (Max as organizer)
  • Workday: starting from 9 to 10, meetings start at 10
  • Keeping the workday to 8 hours, except when it’s needed to shorten it a bit more

Wrap up [5 minutes]

As you close The Team Canvas workshop, ask the team members to tell about one single most important insight that they gained during the workshop.

It is recommended to repeat the Teamwork Canvas session with each new member joining the team.

Strategy

Team Canvas Basic consists of 3 key areas:

  1. What the team is: roles and goals
  2. Why the team is doing what it’s doing: purpose and values
  3. How the team is going to achieve what it needs to achieve: rules and activities

As a facilitator of the session, you might be asked something like this: ‘How are we supposed to answer this question? What is that you expect us to say here?’, etc. It is important to understand that The Team Canvas creates context for the team, rather than content, and therefore all answers are valid. Respond to such questions: ‘How would you answer if you knew? What do you think the answer should be?’

Team Canvas Basic is working well with short-term projects and for the purpose of kicking off a new team. If you want to align on common vision and resolve conflict, or create great team bonding for a longer project, consider using Team Canvas Complete.

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Alexey Ivanov

Product Design. Ex-@SYPartners, @IDEO, @Philips. Professional Integral Coach via @NewVenturesWest. 📍San Francisco