Business Design Tools

(Re)Focus Canvas

What is your objective and what are you doing to make it happen? This sounds like such a simple conversation to have. We all know that it can get very complicated very fast. The (re)focus canvas is a fabulous tool for supporting that type of conversation. Maybe your team is wandering off course; maybe your worried that you are spending time on the wrong activities; perhaps you just need a good old fashioned team alignment conversation…Pick an objective and start discussing!

This version designed by Matt Kelly and licensed to Do Tank Do LLC.


What do you need to start doing?

Rules and Stop

What do you need to stop doing?


What is the objective you are trying to focus on?


What activities should you do more of?


What activities should you do less of?

5 Effective ways to use the tool

5 Effective ways to use the tool

Challenge Yourself

Grab a coffee, quiet your mind and prepare to challenge yourself. Consider your number one job to be done. It could be a strategic objective or simply this week’s most critical outcome. How are you personally spending your time to make this happen? What do you need to start/stop doing? Why have you not done this already? What is stopping you? What can you do more/less of? Your time is precious, spend it wisely.

Use it as a Coaching Tool

Whether you are a professional coach or not, this tool is brilliant at supporting intimate 2-way conversations with colleagues. Plan an hour together to work through the canvas. Start by defining the fundamental objective and then work through how your colleague should be spending their time in an effort to achieve it. When playing the “coach” role, make sure you actively listen and ask questions to trigger their thinking. Use the tool to help organize their thinking.

Team Alignment

Help your team focus, meet deadlines, and achieve desired results. Most people don’t want to be treated like robots and simply be told what to do – this will help you collaboratively figure out critical next steps and actions. You have an opportunity here to empower your team. Gather them for an hour and work through what needs to be done. You will make decisions faster and will achieve team buy-in by default. It’s hard to challenge something you were part of designing.

Better Decision Making

You are struggling to make a BIG decision. There are so many options in front of you, but which one do you choose? Use this tool to dive deeper into the details of your options. Think through the implications of each choice – not only the things you would need to start doing, but also the things that will necessarily have to cease and lose attention as a result.

Ideating on Activities

Ideation typically comes in the form of new ideas for products & services – but it is important to follow this up with a conversation about required resources. WHAT IF you made a major change to your business model…how would this impact the way your team operates and spends it’s time? Try using this as an innovation tool to anticipate work that needs to be done. It will help you understand the potential time-costs/investment of new business model options.

Top Tips

Be Explicit with "The Why"

You will be in danger of either wasting your time, and/or frustrating your team if you try to have a (re)focus discussion around a vague objective. Be as explicit as you can be. Add numbers, metrics, and specificity wherever possible. Make sure that before you jump into the conversation everyone understands (and agrees) that your session will be centered around that specific objective. Now you are ready for a focused discussion.

Seek Out Bold Steps

The beauty of these types of visual tools is that they help hold the complexity of conversations. You can, however, find yourself going very deep very quickly. Beware the rabbit holes and the “blah blah blah”. The action oriented nature of the (re)focus canvas means that you could end up agreeing lots of change. If that’s the case then great! As a leader you should be looking to find the “meta action” that connects with your strategic activities. If the team understands that 80% of the suggested/agreed activities are in support of your overall strategic thinking and BOLD STEPS, then that can be very energizing. On the flip side, if 80% of your suggested changes DO NOT connect to your strategy, then you should challenge those suggestions. Never lose sight of the desired outcomes.

Get Messy to Get Clear

Be a prepared facilitator. Consider starting with a practical warm up exercise around “where are we spending our time today?”. That’s a classic current state discussion that will allow you to naturally move into “what we should consider changing?”. In order to keep the conversation alive and flowing, ask the team to capture all of their thoughts on the canvas with the rule being that we want to gather all perspectives without making any decisions (yet). This means you have to allow the canvas to get messy. In fact, you should want it to get messy. Once you have exhausted that discussion, it will be time to bring it together and start “making some choices” about what you are collectively  willing to commit to. You may want to create a second canvas as a “parking lot”.  You will end up with a focused and clear version that everyone agrees to and a second canvas that is a nice record of everything else.


Workshops, team meetings, remote sessions…they  come and go. Last week’s clarity could be this week’s confusion. Try keep the content of the (re)focus canvas alive. Replay  the output with the team, use it as a management tool, and revise the commitments. You can use it as a simple way to hold the team accountable to actions/changes that they designed and agreed to implement.

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