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Six ways to use our Lean Coaching Canvas to overcome your product management challengesSix ways to use our Lean Coaching Canvas to overcome your product management challengesSix ways to use our Lean Coaching Canvas to overcome your product management challenges

Six ways to use our Lean Coaching Canvas to overcome your product management challenges

We all know that product managers love a good canvas. In fact, we use our Lean Coaching Canvas as the basis for our coaching conversations with clients. We also make it free to use for self-coaching and for other coaches to use with their clients.

Since we made the canvas freely available early this year, we've seen people using it in all kinds of creative ways, so we thought we'd share some of the most popular ones. Here are six of the most popular ways people are using the Lean Coaching Canvas right now.

1. Zoom out when you are stuck

When you work in product, there are so many different things to keep track of that it's easy to get stuck in the weeds. It's easy to be overwhelmed with the sheer number of things you have to do.

Capturing the whole problem on a canvas helps you pull back and see the bigger picture. The Lean Coaching Canvas helps define the real challenge you are working on, then envision the perfect outcome, encouraging your mind to think about the broader scope of the challenge and how a solution fits into it.

2. Identify your blindspots – and get help

Knowing the limits of your own knowledge and skills is often the key to finding an effective solution to a problem. In the the 'now' section of the canvas, this technique can help you identify those blindspots, and where to ask for help.

Step 1: Imagine the the ideal situation, where you've solved your problem. If that was a 10 on a scale of 1-10, where are you at now? Make a note of that on the canvas

Step 2: What would you have to know, or be able to do, to be able to increase that rating? Make a note of that, too

Step 3: Who could you ask for help? Go and ask them!

It sounds simple but the act of making a physical note of these points forces you to acknowledge where you need help if you're going to achieve the outcomes you want to achieve.

3. Generate fresh ideas

Effective ideation is difficult or impossible without context, and that's what capturing your whole challenge on a canvas gives you. The wording on the canvas is designed to help you ideate, and there there's space to encourage you to come up with plenty of ideas.

Most of the ideation techniques coaches use focus on divergent thinking – that is coming up with as many ideas as possible then narrowing down later. Often setting a target number of ideas is useful, for example in the 'Crazy 8s' activity.

The other way to ideate is to ask yourself questions like a coach would. Having a set of questions that force you to take different perspectives on a problem will help you come up with a much wider range of ways to solve it.

(A little plug: It's even better with a coach. Find out more about our custom product coaching)

4. Develop your team

One of the most important elements of managing a product team is empowering your direct reports to solve their own problems. But this relies on your team actually having the skills to implement effective solutions to their product management challenges.

The Lean Coaching Canvas is a great tool for helping your line reports identify where they need to upskill and putting in place the support they need. Having a guiding structure in the canvas means you can be consistent in your approach, spot gaps, and identify where to teach and what unblocking you need to do.

5. Align with your manager

Even if you have regular one-to-ones with your manager, it can be difficult to get the most out of the limited time in those meetings.

The Lean Coaching Canvas can help you make the most of it this time by giving them a snapshot of the challenge you are working on so they understand it quickly and have access to all the context they need to give you the right help.

You can go through the canvas together and they can input and assist where appropriate. The canvas makes it easy to capture all the information that might get lost or forgotten if you just conduct the meeting verbally.

(Bonus tip: If you already have a coach, try using the canvas with them to get the most out of your coaching session)

6. Collaborate with teammates

Some problems are best solved with a team. When that's the case, you need to be aligned. Tools like the Design Sprint by Google Ventures do this really well but what if you're dealing with a more specific problem that you want to solve in a shorter timeframe?

You can use the canvas to align the team around a particular challenge with the following tips:

Tip 1: nominate a note-taker

Tip 2: Work individually, cluster then rewrite

Tip 3: Set aside the most time for ideation

Tip 4: Assign all the actions

Tip 5: Iterate the canvas as you go

How have you used the canvas?

So, those are the six most common ways we've seen people using the canvas. If you've tried any others get in touch and let us know how it went. If not, download the canvas here and give it a try. We'll look forward to hearing about how you have used it.

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Wil Procter

Head of Learning at The Product Refinery, Wil has been working in digital learning since the early 2000s designing digital learning experiences and building learning teams to solve the interesting problems that arise when learning and technology meet.

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