Don’t avoid tensions, embrace them.

 
The word tension has a negative connotation. However, it’s the tension between opposite forces what holds things–and organizations– together.
 
Take suspension bridges, for example. The bridge tower supports the majority of the weight. The supporting cables, on the other hand, receive the tension forces to keep the bridge safe and sound.
 

The Culture Tensions Canvas will help you create a blueprint of the culture of a team, division, or organization. Capture existing tensions and identify how they affect performance. Uncover the different emotions, mindsets, and behavior and the positive and negative results they create. 

 

This tool serves two purposes.

 

Firstly, it will help the team align on the current situation, what’s working and what’s not, what are the things that move everyone forward, and the ones that hinder productivity. 

Secondly, it will help prioritize and resolve ongoing issues. You can use the Culture Experiment Canvas to start prototyping and testing possible solutions. 

 

In short, the Culture Tensions Canvas will help you resolve tensions and move your team forward. 

 

How to Use It?

The best way to use this Culture Tension Canvas is to work as a team. Considering that you want to integrate diverse perspectives, let individuals work on their own first, and then incorporate all thoughts into the canvas.

Give participants 10 minutes to capture their ideas on sticky notes. Then, one by one, they should read them out loud and add theirs to a large, shared canvas. It’s better to tackle one section at-a-time.

Once everyone is done, this will spark a conversation between the team. The facilitator should guide the group to cluster the different thoughts.

 
Team size: 5-7 people.
 
If your team is larger, select those with different background, POV, tenure, seniority. The more diverse the participants, the better.
 
 
 
 
Guide for Each Section:
 
 
Blocking Emotions: Individual and collective feelings that are frustrating the team and hindering performance. How does the team feel when things seem stuck? What are the emotions that we don’t want to feel as a team?
 
Driving Emotions: Individual and collective feelings that produce excitement and moving the team forward. How does the team feel when they perform at their best? What are the emotions that we want to feel as a team?
 
Limiting Mindsets: What individual and collective ideas are getting in the way? What are the beliefs that limit our potential and performance? 
 
Liberating Mindsets: What individual and collective ideas are enabling the best version of our team? What are the beliefs that liberate our full potential and performance? 
 

Toxic Behaviors: What individual and collective conducts are harming the team? What are the rituals or practices that go against the team values or goals? What behaviors should we call out or ‘punish’? Identify the conducts the team should stop doing. 

Toxic Behaviors: What individual and collective conducts are driving positive results? What are the rituals or practices that help us live our values and achieve our goals? What behaviors should we encourage and reward? Identify the conducts the team should continue and/or start doing. 

Negative Outcomes: Identify all negative results (business, team, and organizational related).

Positive Outcomes: Identify all positive results (business, team, and organizational related).

 

Coaching Tips

 
Pick an experienced facilitator. Dealing with tensions requires particular skills and experience. You must create a safe space for people to discuss tensions without censoring themselves or turning conflicts into damaging or unproductive discussions.
 
Clarify the difference between emotions, mindsets, and behaviors. Emotions are how we feel. Mindsets are the beliefs and thoughts that filter how we see our current and future state. Behaviors are what we do, our actions, ways of doing things, and rituals.
 
Things can be both negative and positive. We usually think of specific emotions and behaviors as either positive or negative. In reality, what makes them one way or the other is the impact they create.
 
For example, optimism is usually considered a positive emotion. However, if a team is way too positive that might create overconfidence or blind them to potential business threats.
 
Conversely, frustration is usually seen as something negative, but your team can turn it into energy to bounce back from failure.
 
 

Additional Resources