Strategic Conversation Canvas

Download the Canvas to help you navigate preparing for a crucial conversation or in your planning to host a strategic meeting.


About the Canvas

What is the Canvas for?

This Canvas is a model to help executives, internal consultants and process artists to design and prepare for a strategic conversation. Whether you are an experience facilitator or a beginner, the Canvas will support you to look at what is important.

10 Important things to Reflect while preparing

It is a guide with 10 important points to reflect upon when you are designing a high impact gathering. Using the canvas you address the key questions for a good preparation.

Build your Conversations Collaboratively

Try to build your key conversation collaboratively with others, making the key questions visible to everyone. Contact me so we can schedule a time to fill in the canvas together.

Steps into the Canvas

Click on the section of the Canvas to get some input about it

When talking about strategic conversations we are looking to one of the three overall purposes below:

  • Build Shared Understanding
  • Clarify or Design Options
  • Decision Making

Gatherings to inform decisions, ask for more information on an issue or a simple social get together are all important conversations, but are not defined as strategic moments.

Inquiry to have clarity on why this conversation should happen and what are the signs that this is the appropriate time. Signs that the moment is timely are an urgency perceived by the collective, an external change that will cause a great impact medium or long term or the existence of two competing narratives in the same environment.

Each strategic conversation should be focused on one of the three purposes. It is very common to try to address two or all of them in one single gathering. Resist the temptation.

Read more about Clear Purpose.

A book was published recently that shows the importance and key characteristics of strategic conversations. From this book came the decision to suggest only three types of key purposes for this kind of conversation. See more at Moments of Impact.

To know the boundary conditions, meaning what cannot be changed, is a process that helps the creation of everything else. In many situations the venue, dates or even a chunk of the agenda was already defined. Regardless of what is already on the table, understand the reason in the context and always question what can be made flexible and specially what can block a good conversation if present.

Previously defined things do not cripple important conversations, but pay attention if restrictions are abundant or if there is a big resistance in changing things without clear explanation, both may be suggesting this is not the right time for this type of intervention. Check if a different and previous conversation would be more appropriate.

The beauty of an invitation is connected with the freedom it generates. An invitation is not an order, a forced direction, but it is very powerful as it gives direction to the invitee. The one who truly invites is ready to receive both acceptance and refusal, but is being a protagonist in creating a new event that implies a decision from the person invited. An invitation is not an innocent act!

Explore if it is a genuine invitation and people will participate because they are interested and have a stake. Check carefully the cases in which people are summoned. If a few, talk to them personally and invite face to face to understand their relationship with the issue. If there are many, consider another intervention before you call for a strategic conversation.

The venue and the surrounding structure where an important conversation is held are equipped by both hygienic factors, the ones people only notice when they are not there, and by defining factors, the ones inviting for certain behaviours. Structure invites behaviours and at this time it is important to ask: which structure could we build to the behaviours we would like to invite?

Let’s say you are dealing with a situation with low level of hierarchy, informal and a delicate issue that requires calm and deep reflection? What is the most inviting surroundings for this type of conversation?

Read about Allow for Unlearning Structures.

Every conversation implies a search for results. In this case a ‘result’ does not necessarily mean a goal to be achieved, but that one or some possibilities were chosen bounded by current context, purpose and question.

Our result is a picture of a specific moment where a conversation created a perceived collective step forward in the form of a new agreement. These agreements, to become effective and to last, must be concise and represented in a clear visual form.

In some cases it is possible to imagine in advance a structure to harvest the meaning coming out of a meeting, in other cases this structure will only become clear during the process. Regardless of the case, don’t leave the room without a collective appreciation of both insights that were shared and the collective clarity around key issues.

Here the important thing is to represent what you want to explore, maintain or transform using an open question that invites towards the defined purpose, delimiting the focus of what will be talked about.

We are looking for an open question that gives more or less orientation depending which strategic conversation is in place. To ‘build shared understanding’ usually asks for a more neutral question while ‘making decisions’ might need a more oriented one.

A good source to explore powerful questions and its characteristics is the classic The Art of Powerful Questions.

Have the people who has shown interest in a current theme together around a powerful question, choose the proper time and space, and there is absolutely nothing else that needs to be done for a transformative conversation to happen.

Aim to have the whole system in the room means to explore which are the perspectives about the purpose that will oxygenate the conversation, generating new questions and new patterns and definitions.

It is not possible to change a system from within, so it is key to look to neighbour systems in search for perspectives that can contribute to a really new point of view. Those are the actors in the border of the system, people who are not part of the system, but share some things in common with it.

On changing systems from within read: Bummer, We Can’t Change Society After All

When we say flow we mean a flow of meaning. Imagine a narrative, a story well told, in which well defined chapters help the reader to walk along as the plot builds up. Structure these chapters so since the beginning of the conversation it is clear what will be explored and in what sequence.

This sequential flow is raw material for your agenda, but unlike the former, you don’t necessarily need to expose an agenda for the participant. The essential point of this step is that our ‘reader’ will be following the story being told and not how interventions are unfolding or if we are on schedule.

On this step we want to soak in the language and context of the conversation itself. Perhaps it’s a known conversation to you, perhaps you’re an external player. There are pros and cons in knowing the technical language that will be used in the meeting. Regardless of your knowledge, the important thing in knowing language is to recognise conversations and questions that are at play, the known emotional traps and fears that might be present, etc.

This preparation aims only to generate empathy towards the sensible questions in the room and to support the creation of contextual questions in a language that is perceived as clear and straightforward for the public.

You are not trying to become an expert in the topic, to analyse ‘group dynamics’ or, worse, to carry a predefined opinion or position.

Based on the conversations you had, context and language, which structuring frameworks or references can invite conversations from different points of view, using other mental models or news places of interest?

If one is looking inside, which structure can support exploring external effects? If deep in the problem, a process to inquiry strengths and current assets.

To set a broader perspective to a conversation and/or to connect the current perspective with others are possibilities to generate insights for deep and transformative conversations.

Practically speaking, what do we need to agree for next steps? If the date for the conversation is already set, work backwards, from the final date until today and define what needs to be done and by whom.

Include conversations to re-visit the Canvas and perform a reality check.

Fill the Canvas and book a free 30-minute conversation!

I hope you enjoy the Canvas and that I can help you further. For a limited time you can book a 30 minute conversation with me and we can go over your planning using the Canvas. Download and book!!


People who have worked with me

Nicola McKenna

Still buzzing after my meet with Augusto, where we talked workshop proposals and facilitation. My wellbeing workshops may be just emerging, but the illuminating chat with Augusto gave me so much hope, so much faith. He listens, informs, and supports. He works from his heart, and there’s magic in that.

Rachel Neugarten

Augusto was an excellent facilitator. He met with us prior to the workshop to better understand the overall goals of the project, specific objectives of the workshop, to review the agenda and make suggestions for the sessions, room format, exercises, and other useful guidance.

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4283 Express Lane 4081-198 Sarasota FL 34249