The Agile Canvas

The Agile Canvas Difference

Imagine a planning process that is continuously inspired, realistic, engaging and responsive. This is the simple power of the Agile Canvas. It features the best in any planning effort that takes talk to action. It is ideal for:

  • Creating a shared definition of long success and short term progress indicators
  • Identifying and addressing all the questions these raise
  • Translating these indicators and questions into 2 week rhythms of momentum
  • Engaging all available resources and talents in realizing this momentum

In business as usual traditional approaches, the plan is often a reaction to current challenges and constraints. Because it’s based on planning assumptions, the big binder of goals and objectives finds itself prematurely on a dust-gathering shelf. When people across the organization are not engaged as co-authors, costly change management interventions must be deployed to get disengaged people “on board.”  80% of traditional strategic planning efforts and change management programs fail.

Relying on old questions, the process diverts attention from passions and strengths in a defensive focus on weaknesses and threats. A slow culture is maintained, where a lack of velocity makes substantive strategic difference less possible.

In the Agile Canvas process we take a proactive approach to compelling future possibilities. The process is energized and organized by iterations of new questions. We keep the plan up to date every two quarters as we change our world and it changes us. People genuinely support the plan because they are engaged in the process.

The process is designed specifically to transform culture as it unfolds. The plan is realistic because it’s question based. It is inspired by engagement of our strengths and passions. A nimble culture grows, making being strategic integrated into business as unusual. Markets notice and reward us for our relevance and resilience.


Some organizations prefer a traditional approach. Others prefer an Agile Canvas approach. The difference is in their fundamental relationship to uncertainty. Organizations seeking to prevent as much uncertainty as possible feel better served by a traditional approach. Those that see uncertainty as a rich possibility space prefer an Agile Canvas approach.

The Agile Canvas Process

The process is a dynamic space of four conversations: Dreaming, Clarity, Gifts and Doing. Each is organized by a single compelling and engaging question.

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Dreaming happens in two dimensions: in the long view as far out as we want and in iterations of progress toward our long view. For an optimally inspiring long view, we often go out one generation of 20 years. This frees us from being reactive and self-protective. The long view is a lens to reveal new possibilities in the present, not a predicted location in an unknowable future. The depth and clarity of our passion is equal to the length of our vision.

In the process we translate our 20 year inspiring, long view dreams into 2 year progress indicators. Then we translate these indicators into 2 quarter projects. We keep an agile prioritization of indicators and projects so we are always working on priorities with highest reality-relevance and potential promise.


Everything we want to see possible creates new kinds of uncertainties. We identify all of the questions raised by our 2 year progress indicators and 2 quarter projects. These include everything related that is currently unknown, unclear, unconfirmed, undecided and unresolved. Each is framed as a question addressed with research and decision making. We integrate our questions into the prioritizations of our progress indicators and projects. When planning works from iterations of questions, uncertainty becomes a rich asset.


Gifts are available resources and talents we have and want to invite in order to realize our dreams and answer our questions. These include strengths, technologies, partners, facilities. We list these and integrate any related actions like engagement and invitations into our priorities. Everything we will ever achieve in our growth as an organization will be achieved because we have engaged our gifts in new ways.


Every 2 weeks, we decide what we will be doing to make continuous momentum on our priorities. People engaged commit to and collaborate on the work dedicated for doneness every two weeks. We use workflow boards like Trello to keep all of our work together optimally organized, transparent, inclusive and updated. We decide how to best update plan stakeholders on the work as it evolves.

The 4 Agile Canvas conversations have power because of the principles behind them.

  • Dreaming: The depth of our passion is equal to the length of our vision
  • Clarity: The tempo of our dreams is equal to the rate of our questions
  • Gifts: The scope of our success is equal to the engagement of our talents and resources
  • Doing: The momentum of our progress is equal to the cadence of our actions

In business as unusual, these principles inspire and organize the process with unique power to keep us continously focused, realistic, aligned and productive.

Strategic Sustainability


Every 2 quarters, organized by a core group, we refresh the whole Canvas. Given everything we have experienced, achieved, make progress on, impacted and discovered, we update our dreams, clarity questions, gifts and doing for the upcoming 2 quarters. We communicate highlights from each refresh session to all of the plan’s stakeholders.

We use the Canvas for every kind of planning: strategic, project, operational, business, start up, team, personal development and career planning