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How to create and use a lean canvas template

Turning ideas into concrete plans can be challenging for project managers. But while daunting, this planning phase is vital. Poor project performance can waste 11.4 % of project-related investments, and 67% of projects fail due to poor planning.

Planning is obviously an important process, but where should you begin? And what questions should you ask as you plan your next project or business venture?

One effective method is to use a visual template to display your vision for your business or project. A popular visual template is the Business Model Canvas, which helps project managers lay out nine components related to their organization.

Examples of these components include value propositions, cost structures, customer segments, and revenue streams. There are key points to consider while reviewing each of these components, such as how you interact with your customers through their journey, and the strategic assets your company needs to compete.

The Business Model Canvas has been a resource for business visionaries since it was created in 2005. It does have some drawbacks, however, as it fails to clearly map out the early stages of a business’s development or clearly identify potential risks.

An alternative to the Business Model Canvas is the Lean Canvas. Like the Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas is a business planning method that helps you get to the heart of your idea. This clarity supports alignment, which enables you to hone in on the key information that’s needed—without the unnecessary details.

Unlike the Business Model Canvas, a Lean Canvas focuses on solutions to potential problems and helps organizations identify the components of their business that set them apart from the competition.

In this article, you will learn about the Lean Canvas methodology, its benefits, and how to use MindManager to create a Lean Canvas template.

What is a Lean Canvas model?

A Lean Canvas is a simple, straightforward method of creating a business or project plan. This one-page plan includes several sections in which you can map key points of your potential project, helping you to turn your idea(s) into concrete action plans.

This model was created for entrepreneurs. It provides a clear (and simple) process of what steps to take in order to turn an idea into a business. For example, you can use Lean Canvas to visualize your potential place in the market, or how to make your business idea a reality.

The Lean Canvas can also benefit intrapreneurs. It helps make internal changes to an existing business that will improve specific parts of the organization. For example, you can use Lean Canvas to improve marketing campaigns or develop new products.

Components of a Lean Canvas

A blank Lean Canvas contains numerous empty boxes with prompts to help you populate each section with the appropriate information, including:

  • Problem. What gap is your product filling in the market? It is vital to understand what customers want and need. In this section, you’ll list the main problems your customers experience, such as issues with packing or design. This will help you identify if your product idea is the appropriate solution.
  • Customer segments. Who are your customers? Knowing your customer base is essential to identifying their issues. In this section, you’ll state your product’s target audience(s).
  • Unique value proposition. What are you offering your customers? This section outlines the unique value you will deliver to your customer base. Consider what makes your idea, brand, product, or service special and uniquely differentiated.
  • Solution. Think about the solutions to customer issues that you captured in the “Problem” section above. In this section, describe your solutions’ ability to fill a gap in the market. To effectively answer this, you may need to lean on feedback from potential customer segments to discover what they truly want and need.
  • Channels. How are you going to reach your customers? In this box, you identify the channels you will use. For example, you may choose to use digital marketing as well as traditional channels such as print and radio.
  • Revenue streams. Where is your funding coming from? And how much will your products or services cost? In this section, you will map out the information you need to develop your pricing model. Since your pricing model needs to consider every aspect of your business—including often overlooked costs such as utilities and insurance—you’ll need to do some research in order to determine what a viable pricing strategy will be.
  • Cost structure. What are the costs that go into your product and business? How many are one-off expenditures, and how many are recurring costs? In this section, you will identify all of your costs and overhead. This could include everything from market research and technology costs such as website hosting, to staffing.
  • Key metrics. How will you measure your business performance? How will you define success? In this section, you will identify the key metrics you will use to monitor your progress. For example, as one of your key performance indicators, you may choose the conversion rate of people who view your website and then purchase products or services.
  • Unfair advantage. What is the one thing your business has that none of your competitors can claim? This is your unfair advantage. An unfair advantage is not necessarily “unfair.” It can be a variety of concrete or abstract things such as the endorsement of an expert, or the results of a research study that proves your product’s viability.

Benefits of using Lean Canvas

Since the Lean canvas was designed for entrepreneurs, it does not require details regarding a business’s background or structure. Instead, it enables entrepreneurs to focus on identifying problems and solutions.

With a focus on the entrepreneurial mindset, the Lean Canvas template is also straightforward. You and your associates do not need extensive knowledge of business processes or terms in order to complete the template.

A Lean Canvas helps you to develop a value proposition, which is the value that your company promises to deliver to customers if they choose your product. It also helps you understand what makes your company different from others with its unfair advantage section.

By determining a business or product’s unfair advantage, you will develop your value proposition as well as the key messages to highlight when marketing your product.

Another benefit of the Lean Canvas is its brevity. Since you will have limited space in which to write down your thoughts, you will be challenged to focus on key points and only the most important details.

Using MindManager with Lean Canvas

To develop a Lean Canvas for your next business idea or business plan, consider using a solution like MindManager®. A powerful and innovative visual productivity solution that provides templates or custom mind maps to help visualize ideas and projects. MindManager enables users to create everything from flowcharts and Venn diagrams to organizational charts in order to create an overarching view of data, processes, and plans.

Developing your Lean Canvas in MindManager is simple, as the software provides blank mind maps that can be filled in with text boxes. Creating your Lean Canvas is as simple as opening MindManager’s Business Model template, then replacing the template’s fields with those of a Lean Canvas.

For example, replace the following:

  • Replace “Key Partners” with “Problem.”
  • Replace “Key Activities” with “Solution.”
  • Replace “Key Resources” with “Key Metrics.”
  • Replace “Customer Relationships” with “Unfair Advantage.”

Once you’ve created your Lean Canvas and determined that your idea is viable, you can use MindManager for all stages of your project’s development including project planning, tasks and project management, and process visualization.

Throughout your project phases, you can assign tasks and track processes with MindManager’s workflow diagram. Since it integrates seamlessly with programs such as Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and Office 365, implementing and collaborating via MindManager is simple.

Get started on your next business project by creating a Lean Canvas with MindManager.

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