The Onboarding Canvas is a tool that can be used for onboarding a new team member. We derived this tool from Spotify’s adaptation of the Toyota Kata. I like this tool because no one can tell you precisely how your onboarding should be like in order for you to be effective at your new job. This is a tool for continuous reflection and adaptation. It puts the newcomer in the driver’s seat, makes the onboarding process agile through continuous collaboration with your team.
The onboarding canvas has four quadrants:
- Now: It defines where the team is now, what is going on and how is the new team member adapting to the change?
- Definition of awesome: With the addition of the new team member, how would the team like itself to be? What would be awesome for the new team member?
- Next target: In order to move towards “Definition of awesome” what outcomes should be achieved in the next x weeks?
- Next steps: What are the immediate next steps for the team and when are they due?
Using the Onboarding Canvas
Collaborate with the new team member to fill the onboarding canvas and iterate regularly.
In your first session, brainstorm on the Now and the Definition of Awesome. Use post-its or whiteboard to gather ideas. Group ideas together into themes if themes emerge. Have a lively discussion and get excited about new possibilities that have opened up as a result of someone new joining the team!
Meet the whole team again in few days, and together identify the outcomes that should be achieved within the next few weeks – this is your Next Target. The Next Target has a due date, that is usually few weeks or a month later.
Using Next Target as the basis, derive the Next Steps. Each next step may have an owner and a due date that is prior to the next target date.
Meet regularly to revise the canvas. The whole team should be present for reviewing the progress. A good rule of thumb is to review progress every two weeks, to begin with, and tweak the frequency as needed.
Revisit the Now and Definition of Awesome when things have changed significantly and you have seen progress. Practice iterating with the team! Without practice, this is of no use. Iterating on the onboarding canvas is like planning and retrospective combined together. While iterating, think about what has been going well, and what needs to change. Continue until you and the team feel the canvas is providing you value. Although the number of iterations depends on your situation and needs, I suggest using the canvas for six months and reducing the frequency of iterations during the period.
Note that no two canvases are alike. Everyone arrives with their own experiences, needs, skills and interests. Furthermore, the environment is always changing and the demands of the environment change with it. The onboarding canvas easily adapts to the dynamic nature of our organizations. It is agile: The canvas continuously evolves, improves and delivers what is important to its users quickly and incrementally. It is collaborative, and it is easy to understand. It makes onboarding fun and creates trust between the team members.
The team can stop iterating on the canvas when the new team member and the team both agree that the onboarding is complete. The team should find itself closer to realizing its Definition of Awesome than when they started. The Definition of Awesome should have also undergone changes during this period.
What else is there to it?
If the simplicity of this tool interests you in digging deeper, you will see that this tool can be used not just for onboarding but in general for making simple improvements! For onboarding, I recommend using this tool as part of Alongboarding, a method that makes the onboarding experience wholesome and agile. If you are interested in exploring even further, refer to the Toyota Kata. That will definitely spur more ideas.
This is just one way to use the onboarding canvas, improvise it any way you like! The bottom line is that in order to get the most from it, your approach should be collaborative, iterative and incremental. Make sure to include the whole team, including the new team member, in the dialog.
Credits and References
- Thanks to my onboarding experience at AppFolio and the wisdom of these coaches, I can say that this method works. Thanks, Ellie Thomas, Heidi Helfand, Jennifer Payne, Paul Tevis and Valerie Clarke!
- Jimmy Janlén: Improvement Theme – Simple and practical Toyota Kata
- Mike Rother: Toyota Kata.
- The Center for Nonviolent Communication: The needs inventory.
- Wikipedia: onboarding.
- Forget Onboarding, do Alongboarding!