Evolution of Lean Canvas and Business Model Canvas. Structuring the work of employees on 1 sheet of paper

In October 2021, I was invited to conduct a strategic session for a company that is engaged in the integrated landscaping of public and corporate spaces. The purpose of the event was to present business goals for the next few years and synchronize the team around them. In total, the company employs 120+ people, the meeting was attended by the back office, 30 people.

The CEO of the company is an adherent of turquoise principles and an adherent of self-organizing systems. My task was to convey the idea that each member of the team is an internal entrepreneur with their own internal customers, services and products, from which the processes are woven, and the quality of which adds up to the overall quality of the company’s activities.

In order to convey this idea, I decided to conduct a kind of experiment:

1. I took Lean Canvas – a tool that is often used in startups for top-level structuring of products;

2. Invited employees, divided into teams (departments), to describe their work using this framework;

3. Invited the teams to present the result to each other.

Lean canvas template.  From the network.  It was used at work.
Lean canvas template. From the network. It was used at work.
Structuring work for one of the departments in the company using Lean Canvas
Structuring work for one of the departments in the company using Lean Canvas
Presentation to colleagues from related departments.
Presentation to colleagues from related departments.

The work was in full swing for several hours and, as a result, an interesting workshop turned out, where we, in fact, structured the main components of the processes. That is, Lean Canvas acted as an alternative method of decomposition, moreover, more visual and interactive (albeit more top-level) than classical methods.

But I didn’t stop there. The fact is that Lean Canvas has a number of disadvantages:

  1. block logic. The activities of organizations are subject to process dynamics: something comes out from somewhere, follows somewhere, and arrives at something. Moreover, this law is recursive. We can describe flows at the top level, at the middle level, at the bottom level, and so on. In this sense, the Osterwalder business modeling template is more logical, which clearly identifies the main components of activity and puts them in their places: customers on the right, work in the center, suppliers on the left. But even it is not quite suitable for recursive decomposition of processes, since it does not take into account the operational essence of activity; it is only suitable for a high-level, very general decomposition of companies or product units.

  2. Ambiguity and innuendo. For example, let’s take such a block in Lean Canvas as Key Metrics (Key Metrics). Yes, if a product manager fills in the framework, he will clearly identify and insert product metrics there, according to which we can track the dynamics and make management decisions. But what does this block mean for the department or employee? I have interpreted as key performance indicators, which is quite logical in the context of business processes. In a sense, KPIs characterize production quality. But there is also consumer quality. Consumer quality is evaluated by metrics that the client or customer sets – these are the characteristics of expectations. And, in my opinion, this block is very important, as it allows you to provide a quality result from the point of view of the customer. If we talk about the Business Model Canvas, then the fragile block is Customer Relationship (Customer Interaction). This is a rather complex entity that many do not understand at all and insert whatever they want into it. But if you look at it, then the block is related to the service and to service design, which is important in business modeling, but not obvious when decomposing internal processes.

  3. Fill sequence. What Osterwalder has, what in Lean Canvas confuses me consistently filling. You have to jump from one edge of the canvas to the other. Moreover, for me personally, maybe this is not very annoying, but in practice I often see bewilderment and questions, why is it so? In fact, the answer is simple: because the arrangement of internal blocks is not logical, does not take into account process dynamics, but no one thought about it when compiling frameworks.

So I thought for several months, twisted information, talked with colleagues and mentors, after which I decided to make my own framework that takes into account the shortcomings of Lean Canvas and Business Model Canvas.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the resulting instrument is very harmonious. In addition, it helps to harmoniously and cascade structure business logic and processes. So I named it Harmony Desk.

Description

The basic principle is similar to Lean Canvas or Business Model Canvas:

1. There is a canvas (sheet of paper) and blocks with thematic headings are located on it;

2. There is a certain sequence of filling blocks with attributes related to them;

3. Based on the results, you get a comprehensive and visual picture of the object you describe.

The differences of this tool are in the logic of blocks, the recursiveness of the tool and the presence of a management core. But first things first.

Framework logic

If you look at the scheme of my framework and the order in which the blocks are filled, everything seems to be very harmonious. Here’s what the stream looks like:

→ The process begins with the customer and his problem, then smoothly flows into the goal, to the contractor and to his service / product. → To produce a product, the performer needs to perform certain tasks, which may involve resources, resource providers and partners. → The task is discussed and the result is communicated at the points of contact. → The work has internal performance criteria and external quality criteria. → The contractor bears the cost of doing the work, but also receives benefits.

This is a quick retelling of the block logic. As you can see, it quite harmoniously echoes the order of blocks and almost all blocks follow each other, starting from the customer.

recursiveness

Interestingly, the above logic exists at any level of an organization’s activities. Here is an example for one of the blocks:

  • At the top level, in a company, a customer is a buyer who contacts you with his own goal / task due to the presence of certain problems (existing or potential);

  • For the head of the department, the customer is the general director with his own problems and goals / objectives;

  • For an employee of the department, the customer is the head with his own problems and goals and objectives;

  • Even the CEO can have an internal customer in the person of the board of directors or shareholders.

    Organizations, like a fractal, have a common pattern and principles at all levels of activity. It is only necessary to formulate them. And if, using these general principles, we go through the organizational structure, we get a system map of the business logic and processes of the company, described by one, agreed upon by the team, language.

Management core

This part of the framework appeared last. It is hidden, as it were, “under the hood”, but no less important than the visible main part. In a sense, the core of management, like the engine of a car, is the heart without which the car cannot run. We can structure activities, but structure is of little use in terms of management without important details:

1. Related activities (the core of related activities) – here we are talking about management and support tasks that, from a business point of view, you often do not want to perform, but you need to. For example, the implementation of planning, control, filling out forms, communication, workflow – are not related to the production of a product, but are important in terms of coordination or process support.

2. Competences (core of competencies) – in this block, hard and soft skills are fixed, which are important for the quality performance of work in a department or in a single position. For example, in the case of managing mass, technically complex production, it is important for us to have high technical skills, and in the case of sales or in managing people, it is important to have high communication skills. We only read about the importance of developing Soft and Hard skills, indicate the requirements for applicants in ads, but do we take into account competencies and their quality directly in operational activities? Rarely. And this is a very important resource, in fact, the basis that forms the intellectual capital of companies.

3. Innovation (the core of innovation) – this is where the tools and technologies that help us do our job effectively are captured. It is important that the resource used must add value, either in terms of gains in performance or in terms of gains in enhancing perceived quality on the part of the customer.

4. Risks (core of risks). The importance of this block would have been underestimated a few years ago, until I was invited to lecture on business processes at the Institute of Compliance and Business Ethics at the Higher School of Economics. It was there that I saw that a significant number of large international companies (most of the program participants are employees and heads of financial and legal departments) attach great importance to minimizing production, reputational and other risks. Indeed, it is easier for us to prevent a negative event by correctly organizing our activities than to reap negative benefits later. Therefore, in the framework, I considered it important to fix possible risks and measures to prevent or minimize them. Moreover, black swans arrive from where you do not expect them, and often these are minor failures somewhere at the lowest levels. Therefore, in my opinion, it is very important to record possible risks and measures down to individual employees.

When you have completed the framework, the part with the control core can be folded like an accordion and hidden by gluing the bottom and main part of the tool with tape. It turns out such a drop-down, interactive business document or a stylish job description that can be hung on the wall near the workplace and which you want to return to.

Outcome

Thus, in my opinion, it turned out to be a rather harmonious tool that combines the advantages and takes into account the disadvantages of Lean Canvas and Business Model Canvas. I would like to believe that Harmony Desk can take its rightful place in your activities and become a language that unites around a common vision.

The tool can help employees look at the business and their work from a managerial point of view, from a bird’s eye view, which, you see, is often lacking in business.

You can request a presentation with filling examples and a framework template with instructions on web pagewhich I made for this purpose. I hope the Habr moderators don’t mind posting the link. It’s kind of open source, sharing the tool for free, for your own non-commercial needs.

I will be glad to valuable remarks and comments.

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