Applying a Lean Canvas: In sport, in life

What If You Treated Your Personal Attributes Like a Lean Canvas?

— By Andrew Russell

When I started FANFIT four years ago, the mission was very simple (and has remained consistent to present day).

That mission is to help people live healthier, happier, and more athletic lifestyles.

We’ve managed to build on this vision each year by leveraging some of the best leaders in sport. However, this has not come without its own set of hurdles. Managing my passion for sport with a startup mindset has led to numerous opportunities for self-reflection.

Working with some of the greatest athletes and sport leaders has also led me to take note of the exceptional leadership of others, their habits, and ideas around organizational effectiveness (or team).


When it comes to organizational effectiveness, people are incredibly important! This is likely not the “eureka” moment you were expecting, however, it is the easiest way to describe my experience. It is a consistent thought that leaders refer to time and time again. How often have you heard the phrase “you’re only as good as your people”?

It is prescriptive in nature.

The suggestion being that organizations had better secure and retain the best possible talent to produce strong teams and results.

Take, for example, this quote (as per from Marissa Mayer of Yahoo:

“In technology, it’s about the people — getting the best people, retaining them, nurturing a creative environment, and helping to find a way to innovate.”

Makes sense and sounds simple enough. Or take the words of Kathryn Minshew of Muse: “You know, as most entrepreneurs do, that a company is only as good as its people. The hard part is actually building the team that will embody your company culture and propel you forward.”  


The quotes and sentiments of Kathryn and Marissa are much like the words of talented coaches in sport. Coaches look to cultivate and nurture talented athletes, players and prospects, with the goal of winning championships, medals, and titles year after year. So how do the players and personnel ensure that they shine and support a prosperous team?

My experiences in business and sport led me to consider a popular startup framework developed by Ash Maurya. Ash is a famous voice in the startup world and is perhaps best known for his book “Starting Lean.” I was lucky enough to see him speak in person, and even have the autographed book as proof.

Maurya utilizes a “lean canvas” to identify key attributes of a business idea. If you are unfamiliar with this framework, the approach asks you to consider the high level elements of the business idea in a one page visual chart (see below).


This framework works for many entrepreneurs to understand how to best develop and conceptualize their ideas. In one of my many recent business daydreams, I thought “What if you considered Ash Maurya’s chart as an opportunity for reflection on how to best use an athlete if you were a coach.”

It might look something like this…

Taking it one step further, this could also be a useful framework for an athlete or person in transition. Where do I fit in the workforce is a popular question for any athlete leaving elite or high level sport. As the identity of an athlete changes, so does the nature of one’s lifestyle. Perhaps, this framework could be used as an inventory to identify one’s strengths and weaknesses and potential opportunities in the marketplace. For example, as an employee “what are my unfair advantages in the marketplace?” What kinds of attributes and missing pieces do you offer to help teams thrive?

If you are in need of some self-reflection, it might be worthwhile to try and fill the boxes and see what happens. The worst case scenario, you will have thought critically about your path and outlook, and for many that alone is a valuable point of reflection.