Team Canvas – Get your team on the same page

This is a guest post by Alex Ivanov. Alex and his team developed a simple-to-use and very visual framework called Team Canvas for teambuilding and team alignment that is available freely to anyone under Creative Commons licence. We are grateful to Alex for having shared this great tool with the facilitators’ community, and also glad to announce that you can find Team Canvas resources on SessionLab both in the library and as a Featured Session – so you can seamlessly integrate it in your next session plan if you decide to do so.

On average, only 46 out of 100 workgroups within organizations end up creating value for companies, and up to 92% of freshly created startup teams are destined to fail for various reason. A study mentioned by Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman suggests that 60+% of those reasons are related to problems within teams, e.g. miscommunication, unresolved conflicts, co-founder disagreements, key players leaving teams at pivotal moments and so on.

What makes it even worse is that the tools for team maintenance and leadership for various reasons are not easily available to small teams like startups and creative agencies, and are not widely used within even bigger companies.

Here is a simple question: Is there something you personally can do to make the team you work in more successful and productive? We suggest that simply put, yes.

The Team Canvas

A few months ago I and a friend of mine set up on a quest to package years of our experience into one product about leading, consulting and being part of small creative teams. We iterated on one simple template that could align team members of any small team and get them on the same page, resulting in more clarity and productivity no matter which stage of group development they were at.

We called the template Team Canvas (and picked up the format from well-established Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas) and tested our way through with multiple small teams around the world, both onsite and remote: early stage startups, creatives from advertising industry, student project groups, and innovation consultants.

The results we got were quite inspiring. Within two hours of a Team Canvas session, we managed to bring teams to a state of clarity and alignment, with their feedback ranging from ‘that was useful’ to ‘that was extremely valuable for us as a team’. Most teams could facilitate the session themselves, which meant that they could repeat such sessions without external help whenever they needed.

Team using Team Canvas

Who Is It For and How Does It Work

We believe these groups would benefit from The Team Canvas the most:

  • Facilitators – For having an easy-to-use and logical method with ready-made visuals available for facilitation team sessions
  • Team leaders – For having a simple framework that you can use with your small team for better alignment (nevertheless beyond a certain complexity you may prefer having an external facilitator)
  • Startup teams at the stage of forming, pivoting or growing

Team canvas consists of 9 parts that structure your team culture conversation. They are focusing around areas of:

  • Who you are;
  • Where you want to arrive;
  • How you work together; and
  • What exactly you agree to do to get there.

Team Canvas Example

Running Team Canvas Session

Running Team Canvas is fairly easy:

  1. Get the latest Team Canvas template from theteamcanvas.com. It’s free and licenced under Creative Commons (Attribution-Share Alike). You can also find Team Canvas session plan with all the instructions and examples in SessionLab and easily adjust it to your needs or include it other sessions.
  2. Learn how Team Canvas works and decide which template, Team Canvas Basic or Team Canvas Complete, you would rather use at your current stage of the project.
  3. Use mobile-friendly facilitator’s guide to get your team ready for the session and as a step-by-step guide during the session

In case some people on your team are working remotely, we partnered with a few cool online collaboration platforms to let you arrange Team Canvas session along with skype/google hangouts call: