Team Canvas Complete: Instructions

Alexey Ivanov
7 min readJul 7, 2023

Objective

Team Canvas is a strategic framework that helps bring team members on the same page. Based on our experience with startup teams and creative agencies, it is made to align teams, increase cohesion and performance, and to create a productive team culture, fast.

Team Canvas works across multiple touchpoints:

  • creating a team;
  • clarifying goals and addressing overall team performance (e.g. when you feel stuck as a team, or when you need to get a lot of stuff done);
  • growing and onboarding new team members;
  • general alignment sessions (recommended every 2–3 months).

Example: Team Canvas

Onboarding team members

Before you use the canvas, make sure to get everyone on the team on board to do it. You might want to take the lead and suggest the tool to your team. Here are a couple of ways to introduce the framework:

Case:
Starting a team

Hey guys! Since we are forming the team now, I’d like to propose to do a session on creating our team structure and getting to know each other. Each of us might have had one of those previous experiences with teams when things didn’t really go that well. So why don’t we invest some time to make sure we are aligned and ready for a kickoff?

Case:
Team adjustment

Hey guys, our work was a bit fuzzy lately, and I thought we could spend some time clearing things up and getting on the same page. There is a good tool for it called Team Canvas, which may help us get aligned and a bit more structured as a team. What do you say if we use it for an alignment session?

Case:
Onboarding new member

As you know, we are a small team, and getting a new person on board is a big decision. We want to make sure we all agree on core things and will work great together. What do you say if we run a session with this tool, The Team Canvas, making sure we are aligned on our vision and core values, and have a match?

Running The Session

  • Duration: 90–120 minutes
  • Participants: 2–8
  • Facilitation: team lead or external facilitator

Materials:

  • Team Canvas recreated on a whiteboard, 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
  • 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. There are fields that all team members should agree on: 1. People and Roles; 2. Goals; 4. Purpose; 5. Values; 9. Rules and culture. The rest of the fields can be filled individually, with no particular need to be agreed upon.

1. People & Roles [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

2. Common goals [10 minutes]

Ask the team to agree on common goals.

Questions:

  • What do you as a group really want to achieve? What is our key goal that is feasible, measurable, and time-bounded?

Examples:

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

3. Personal goals [5 minutes]

Ask the team members about the individual goals they have for the project.

Questions:

  • What are our individual personal goals for this project?
  • Are there personal agendas that we want to open up?

Examples:

  • Become more confident in iOS development [Marie]

4. 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 Internet of things innovation

5. Values [10 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

6. Strengths & Assets [15 minutes]

Ask the team to share the key pieces of skills (both hard skills and soft skills) and assets available within the team. Don’t dismiss ‘insignificant’ stuff. You might find that the team has the capacity for martial arts, running marathons, or persuading people. Encourage people to share something about themselves, as well as note important qualities they see in their teammates.

Questions:

  • What are the skills we have in the team that will help us to achieve our goals?
  • What are interpersonal/soft skills that we have?
  • What are we good at, individually and as a team?

Examples:

  • Coding (iOS/Python/etc.)
  • Design
  • Being devoted and driven
  • Being visionary
  • Energy
  • Sales & pitching

7. Weaknesses & Development Areas [15 minutes]

Ask the team to share the key weaknesses and areas for improvement that they see in themselves, as well as obstacles they face as a team. Make an accent on reporting what people can find in themselves, rather than discussing other’s weaknesses.

Questions:

  • What are the weaknesses we have, individually and as a team?
  • What our teammates should know about us?
  • What are some obstacles we see ahead us that we are likely to face?

Examples:

  • Easily distracted [Marie]
  • Can be arrogant [Max]
  • Lack of structured communication [general], etc.

8. Needs & Expectations [10 minutes]

Ask the team to express the needs they have in order to be successful. Think of this as a follow-up to the previous two sections: once team members expressed their strengths and weaknesses, they should be able to express the needs they have to amplify their strengths and be at their best despite the weaknesses.

Questions:

  • What does each member of the team need to be successful?
  • How the team could help each member with their needs?

Examples:

  • Some «me time»
  • More clear weekly status updates
  • Help and coaching
  • Trust
  • Fun
  • Stability

9. 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 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 workday to 8 hours, except when it’s needed to shorten it a bit towards 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.

Strategy

When using complete Team Canvas, it is good to keep in mind that it consists of 4 parts:

  1. What the team is: roles and goals (both common and personal)
  2. Why the team is doing what it’s doing: purpose and values
  3. Who are the team members: their strengths, weaknessess and needs
  4. How the team is going to achieve what it needs to achieve: rules and activities

As a facilitator of the session, you might be often 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. Gently reply to such questions: ‘How would you answer if you knew? What do you think the answer should be?’

It would be a good idea to park conversations that seem to take too much time for the team and arrange separate meetings to address these issues.

We recommend repeating Team Canvas sessions once in a while, especially when new team members join.

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More: theteamcanvas.com

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Alexey Ivanov

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