Clarity Cards help companies and organizations formulate statements about what is important for them. The statements will give autonomous teams clarity on direction and help them align with the company’s interests.

Clarity of direction and competence are the fundamentals for autonomy. The absence thereof often results in misalignment.

You can download the cards here on LeanPub. Currently it’s a beta-version, so you have the option to download them for free, as of now 🙂

In our experience, a common countermeasure against misalignment has been to reduce autonomy. We created Clarity Cards because we believe that increasing clarity of directions is a better solution.

The Clarity Cards is created by Tomas Björkholm and Jimmy Janlén.

A precursor to Clarity Cards, Alignment Cards, was drafted at Scrum Gathering in Munich 2016 by Tomas Björkholm, Tobias Fors and Büsra Coskuner.

How to use the cards

Start with the blue “Our Offer” cards.

  1. Select three to five cards that you together think best represent how you and your products or service should be perceived by your customers.
  2. Order the selected cards from highest to lowest. Try to avoid setting them at the same level. Do this as a group exercise. The most value comes from the discussions.
  3. Write a statement representing the top ordered cards.

When ready to continue, do the same thing for the green “Business Needs” cards. They should answer what to focus on to stay in business. It should also be the effect for your continuous improvement.

When done, look back at the order of your “Our Offer” cards. Is there alignment between “Our Offer” and “Business Needs”? If not, discuss and figure out why, and maybe adjust either “Our Offer” or “Business Needs”. Summarize the top ordered cards in a Business needs statement.

Now, bring out the red “Culture & Behavior” cards. They should answer which values that should be the drivers behind your principles. Do the same things as before, including verifying alignment and writing statement.

Finally, it’s time for the bottom up approach using the yellow ”Team Needs” cards. It’s like “if the statements so far represent what is wanted – this is what we need to fulfill that”. Again, check alignment with earlier cards and discuss surfaced misalignment.

If you can’t find the words you are looking for, feel free to use the blank cards to add them.

Depending on the mix of participants, you should adopt how you use the cards. Small organizations will typically do them all together. For big organizations the blue, red and green are more likely to be used on top management while red, green and yellow are more relevant on team level having the “Our Offer” statement in their mind.

Other ways of using the cards

Here is another way of using the cards:
In this video Gene Wickman tells you how to ”Align Your Company Vision – 8 Questions for Your Leadership Team”. You can use the Clarity Cards for four of his suggested eight questions. We would map them like this:
1. Core values – Culture and behavior (Red)
2. Core focus – Business needs (Green)
4. Marketing strategy – Our offer (Blue)
8. Issues list – Team needs (Yellow)
The remaining four questions Gene is mentioning are plans for different time horizons and that is too unique to have cards for.

External vs. self-perception

Contribution from Büsra Coskuner

If you’re working with clients or in a strongly stakeholder driven environment, you can use Clarity Cards to get your team and the client or stakeholders on the same page regarding goals, expectations and perception. They will also help you to make necessary trade-offs visible and get your client’s or stakeholder’s buy-in.

  1. Ask the client or the stakeholders (one by one or in group) to order the behavior they value the most (red cards).
  2. For top 5 behavior cards, rate them according to how good the stakeholders think the team is performing. Use the scale 1-5 where 5 is the best.
  3. Do the same with the team. Ask what they think the stakeholders value the most and how they rate their own performance on those
  4. Compare the results from stakeholders with the result of the team. Are they aligned?
  5. You can do the exact same with the green, blue and yellow cards if you want to understand if the team and the client or stakeholder(s) are aligned on the expectation and perception of the what business need is important, what they think the main offer of the product or service is, or if the team wants to communicate their needs to the client to be able to deliver on expectations. 

This exercise will help you, your team and the client or stakeholder to work better together due to a more open and clear communication of expectations.

Value Proposition for early stage products

Contribution from Büsra Coskuner

The most important point in the early stage of a product is to make sure that everybody has the same understanding of the value proposition that you’re starting with and need to validate and iterate on. As soon as you have worked out the value proposition, you can use the blue “Our Offer” Clarity cards with your whole company to see if you all have the same understanding of the value proposition. If you’re working on a new product in a big company (e.g. innovation lab, innovative products etc.) you can use the cards to align with the management and other stakeholders on the value proposition you want to test. 

In the market research phase of building new products, you can use the green “Business Needs” Clarity cards to map your ideas and findings to your business needs to pick ideas that are matching your Business Model, or to consciously pick ideas with a different Business Model and to communicate the thoughts behind using the green cards. 

  1. Use green “Business Needs” cards to be clear about what your business needs or thinks to need. Based on that, pick ideas from market signals that are matching business needs, or that are complementary. Use the cards together with your ideas in a small workshop with your management to get their buy-in on the ideas you’ve selected.
  2. Create value propositions around the ideas you’ve selected. Use the blue “Our Offer” cards together with the green “Business Needs” cards to communicate to your team, your management and your entire organization why you’ve selected those ideas and which offer you’re going to test with the value propositions.
  3. When you now want to build a team around it, you can use the red “Culture & Behavior” cards and the yellow “Team Needs” cards to build a team around the initiatives based on your expectations communicated with the cards. They will help you in your hiring decisions as well as you can check candidates against your expectations about which the cards will remind you. You can use them later again with the team to get alignment on how the team wants to work together and what they need to perform well.

You can use the cards to either describe the current stage of your ideas or the end stage that you want to achieve.

Team retrospectives

Contribution from Büsra Coskuner

Use the red “Culture & Behavior” Clarity cards and the yellow “Team Needs” cards to build a game to use in your retrospectives. One example is the following:

  1. Magic estimation style: For each deck of cards, ask the team to sort them in the order of what they think is the most important down to least important from each person’s perspective, with the goal to have 1 straight line with hard priorities as an end goal. Give them a range from 0 to 10 with 10 = most important. Let them silently assign each card to a number. You’ll stop the sorting when either no card is moving anymore, or when only specific cards are moving back and forth.
  2. Talk about the result, why they think the top cards are so important for them as a team, and why those couple of cards are moving back and forth. 
  3. Now ask them to sort them again on what they think they doing well as a team and what not, with 10 = there doing extremely well and 0 = they’re terrible at it.
  4. Now find the discrepancy between what they see as most important and what they think they’re bad at. Discuss with the team why they’re bad or actually good at things that are important for them, and what they could do to make it better or to keep it as is.

Business retrospectives

Contribution from Büsra Coskuner

You can do a similar exercise as ”Team retrospective” but with the business stakeholders, using the green “Business Needs” and blue “Our Offer” clarity cards to see what you’re doing well business wise and what you should improve to make sure your offer matches what you want and the business is going well.