Understanding Team Canvas

Team Canvas is based on our experience with teams and is created by practitioners for practitioners — facilitators, coaches and team leads. Below we summarize ideas and theory behind Team Canvas.

In teamwork, things you don’t talk about tend to matter the most

Years of observing, leading and consulting small teams made us realize that it’s not the lack of knowledge that makes effective teamwork so hard. It’s the hard questions themselves that are not being asked at the right time.

The obviousness of forming groups and acting as one sometimes makes it difficult to spot real challenges of building, maintaining and developing great teams.

We built Team Canvas as a reflection on our experience with teams and teamwork-centered companies. It is intended for advanced leaders and facilitators to help bring groups on the same page, and start building strong team culture, bottom up.

How Teams Work Over Time

Research suggests that any group has a tendency to go through four stages of development, much like human beings themselves.

  • A group starts with The Forming stage, when everybody in the group craves for inclusion and doesn’t raise any concerns, just like children do with their parents.
  • As the group develops, teenage-like Storming stage occurs, along with conflicts and counterdependence.
  • As the group goes further, it gets to young adult-like Norming stage, when members start to learn to work together effectively.
  • When things are finally figured out, the group gets to Performing stage, and works effectively and smoothly like a mature grown-up.

Two most likely problems occur along the way:

  1. Teams get stuck between first two stages, not being able to develop further (especially at Storming stage);
  2. Groups don’t have enough time or focused effort to resolve conflicts and develop into high performance teams organically.

Defining Great Team Culture

Based on our experience and research on company cultures, we identified the key components of self-leading teams that tend to have a) sustainable creative culture and b) high performance standards. Summing up in three words, it is a mix of purpose, openness and mastery. Here is a bit more elaborate picture:

By identifying these areas, we could put them into practice via series of hands-on workshops with teams of 2 to 8 people. After each workshop, we collected group feedback and learnings, which allowed us to create and iterate on a framework to facilitate team development and alignment. We called it Team Canvas.

Team Canvas in a Nutshell

Team Canvas comes in two flavors. Team Canvas Basic is a simple template to kick-off a team project, adjust its course and ensure the team has enough momentum to get things done smoothly. It takes about 25-30 minutes to finish.

Team Canvas Complete is used to facilitate an alignment session to get everyone in the team on the same page about goals, aspirations, needs and rules. It has a great capacity to gently resolve conflicts, and takes about 2 hours to complete.

Ready To Try?

There are a few ways you could use Team Canvas during a meeting: either facilitate it offline with the whole team, or use one of online collaboration tools to do it. You can also sign up for our online training to learn how to facilitate Team Canvas sessions.

Option A: Run a team meeting

Learn about Team Canvas and then use our elaborate How To Guide to facilitate internal meeting with your team.

Option B: Online Team Canvas

For remote teams, we recommend using one of collaborative brainstorming tools to run Team Canvas session with the whole team along with a skype/google hangouts call.

Option C: Get online training

Sign up for our online course to learn how to use Team Canvas, facilitate team meetings and combine it with other tools.

Unlock Advanved Level

Team Canvas is a great tool both to align team members and to diagnose most likely problems within groups. As the team grows bigger, you might want to use Team Canvas in conjunction with other tools, such as effective feedback, TKI conflict resolution tool, Belbin team roles, Lensioni’s Team Dysfunctions, skill mapping, any variation of Big Five personality tests and so on. Team Canvas works well as a complimentary tool within Holocracy circles. We suggest you sign up for our online training or pre-order the book to get the most out of the tool on advanced level.

Get the book

Designing Team Culture teaches you how to understand, design and facilitate team dynamics, so your crew is driven and happy.

Get online training

Sign up for our online course to learn how to use Team Canvas, facilitate team meetings and combine it with other tools.