The OS Canvas

The fantastic piece of thoughtwork by the folks at The Ready:

The OS Canvas

OS v2.0

As Aaron defines it, it is his 2nd attempt to describe complex organizations through simple frameworks in the most comprehensive way possible (the first being the manifesto).

Visually, it’s inspired by Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas

From a content perspective, while drawing from the works of dozens of people, the strong influences of Frederic Laloux’s list of structures, practices, and processes in Reinventing Organizations is clearly noticeable.

The framework decomposes the organizational operating system into 9 components:

  1. Structure & Space
  2. Authority & Decisions
  3. Information & Communications
  4. Policy & Governance
  5. Purpose & Values
  6. Meetings, Rhythm & Coordination
  7. Strategy & Innovation
  8. Resource Allocation, Targets & Forecasts
  9. People Development & Motivation


Towards OS V3.0

I view this framework as a huge step forward from v1.0 in three major fronts:

  1. Visual representation – the canvas leverages the spatial arrangement of the content to make it easier to see both the system and its parts at the same time
  2. Content – this iteration seems a lot more comprehensive and captures many organizational elements that were missing in the original manifesto
  3. No-judgement– leaving each of the boxes (components) blank, leaves room to study any potential permutation, without judgement, seeing how small changes may affect the interactions between the different pieces and the whole.

While this framework is a huge step forward, its structure also clarifies the value that it is yet to unlock.

The simple 3×3 layout implicitly suggests that “all parts of the organizational OS were created equal”. I strongly believe that this is not the case, and there’s some directional/sequential relationship between the different component. For example, the organization’s purpose and its beliefs about human motivations seem to be deriving / constraining some of the other components, while the inverse seems to make less sense.

The canvas idea gives us the opportunity to capture not only what the different parts are, but also, to some extent, the way they interact, which a critical attribute of the organizational system.

Lastly, I suspect that if we follow the intent to capture interaction as part of the canvas to its conclusion, we’ll discover that some of the initial “pairings” (all boxes are currently in “X & Y”  or “X, Y & Z” format) don’t make sense anymore, and need to be reshuffled in order to make the interactions more apparent.

Looking forward to v3.0 from Aaron and team, so I can compare it to my own.


The OS Canvas

One thought on “The OS Canvas

  1. Amber King says:

    I really like this Itamar! I also found the org brainstorming Trello board and the sample completed board from the really useful. Thanks for posting!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s