Archives: October 14, 2019

Team Canvas

I love building teams! I cannot lie…I have always had a passion for this and something I take great enjoyment in. It can be any team ranging from a guild, a chapter, leadership to development teams.  To me these are all little eco systems that have to be shaped to achieve the goals of the people and organisation. Kicking off teams correctly forms relationships and set the working agreements to help shape us.

Earlier this week I told you that I was hosting an ADM away day. Well I used this opportunity to run the canvas exercise once again.

What is the Canvas?


So how did I run this session?

So my thinking has really evolved in the last 6 months and I now run it completely different, but hey that’s evolution! I started off the team thinking about their individual values through  the Real Deal exercise I blogged about earlier in the week.

I then got them to think about what they bring to the team or super powers as I like to call it. Also what their aspirations are and who they most admire.  To make this easier for them I created a handy little template.

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I gave them a few moments to have a think about content and then I give them a time box to go around as many people in the group and share this knowledge.  This part gets really noisy and is super fun!

So by this point in the session they now know a good chunk of information about their fellow collaborators and have really started or deepened the team cohesion.

From here I used to take them to the purpose statement, but I found even the best teams struggled to do this straight away,  and so instead I ask the to brainstorm the values they want within the team.  Now …they will come up with many and so use techniques such as dot voting to pick the ones that are most pertinent.  I usually create this into a word cloud and include in the write up.

Next we brainstorm all of the goals we want to achieve. Simple brainstorming and de-duplication works well here. Remember they are goals and so the team needs to be able to measure them.

Then the purpose Smile By now they understand who they are, who the team are and what we want to achieve.  I find the old classic diverge and merge works well. I literally gave the 5 minutes per group per round.  Amazing what you can achieve in such a short time.


After a bit of final word shuffling..we had our purpose! Success!

Finally we moved onto the way we want to work.  You can facilitate this in a number of different ways but I have been favouring a good ole user story of late.  Let them know the problem statements and who we are serving and then let them decide for themselves how they want to work. Then set the terms of the experiment and give it a go!

All in all I can typically get teams to define this in 90 mins max. Usually 60 minutes if they are an existing group.

After this we then write up and make really visible to absolutely everyone. Sadly I cannot post a fully completed one, but here is the style I usually use to make it fun and engaging.


I typically get large posters of these printed  (£10) and get everyone in the same room together. If I am distributed I find the tool Miro works the best.  In fact, Miro is awesome for retros too! #notsponsored

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With anything, as a group you will need to evolve this overtime.

So I hope this has given you another tool to put in your box. Go out and experiment! If you can think of any other cools techniques to facilitate this session. Drop me a line.



The Real Deal–A Values Technique

72 Days till Christmas! My favourite time of the year

Last week I was helping my current client organise an away day for the ADM community. This was really important to me as it was the first time we had come together for a such thing. We finished off the event with some Axe throwing… which was epic!  I can really recommend it as a team building activity. Here are a few photos of the fun.

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I wanted to share with you a kick of exercise I completed. The history of this exercise dates from when I was working at AVIVA. It was one of those things I remember doing wondering what the hell was going on! It was not until many years later I realised the powerful value of this to teams. I have done this at many clients now and always get positive feedback and learn a little something along the way.

The exercise is called the Real Deal. It comprises of a deck of cards which each contains a word. You lay these cards out and ask each team member to pick 4 cards that represent things that are important to them at work. Card examples include things such as trust, autonomy, rewards etc.

You then ask them to each pick a deal breaker. This card represents the one thing that is most important to them and that if this thing is broken, then they effectively checkout.


Let me give you an example of mine:

  • Autonomy – I like the freedom to be able to innovate and get on with my work. I don’t need to be controlled or monitored. When I am no longer delivering value, I don’t hang out my contracts I leave. This is closely linked to my second choice.
  • Integrity – I have strong values in myself and my approach to work. I can only be myself.
  • Respect – For myself and others.
  • Learning – I like to continue to learn. If I am doing the same ole things over and over again, then I will lose interest.

My deal breaker has to be:

  • Fun – You spend so much time at work, when did have to be so serious?!? So I like fun, laughter, social events and spending real time with people getting to know them. This helps break down barriers, but can also help you make some friends for life.

As part of the exercise we discuss:

  • How will we know if your deal breaker has been breached? What will we see or hear?
  • What can we do to change this situation? What would you like to have happen?

I typically run this exercise with the whole group standing in a circle so we can give each other the full attention we deserve. At the end of each contribution I take the opportunity to thank them for sharing.

I find that this exercise helps to form teams by getting to know each other at a deeper level. Understanding each others core values will show how we are all in fact different and need to be treated and respected differently. Maybe someone needs more praise than others, maybe someone needs to feel more empowered than they currently are. The result being a more close knit and aware group of individuals.

So this is a really simple exercise that can support groups that need to work together for any goal.  You don’t need any fancy decks of cards, you could write these words on post it notes and achieve the same effects.

Surprisingly my values have changed very little over the last 7 years (since I first did this technique).  Fun has always been my deal breaker. Remember this the next time we meet

Why not give this a try and let me know your results.