No Image Available

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Company Culture Exercise


I work for a very new multi- site company that is growing rapidly. I am looking for a relatively short (max 1 hour) interactive exercise that I can use with the Board and with all staff respectively to assist us in defining what our company culture and values should look like. 

Any advice on where I could look, or from anyone who has done something similar would be gratefully received! 

9 Responses

  1. Culture

    I would get people to think about which other companies “appear” to have a really positive culture and why.

    Pick out all the words and images that are motivational, inspiring, etc etc

    Then maybe design a poster that encapsulates all of the above…

  2. caveats and an answer

    Hi Zoe

    Sorry you may already be aware of these things  but I’d offer a couple of caveats;

    1. Beware getting the board to do this activity first; it creates an atmosphere of "there is a right answer" (which, if we don’t, get we are in trouble)…try to get the board members involved with their staff…but facilitate this carefully to ensure that board members aren’t either pressurised to be the leaders or allowed to take over and impose their views on everyone else.

    2. It is often as valuable to consider the "negative" aspects of corporate values as well as the inspiring/motivational; for example, if value 1 is "Integrity"…..this means that we don’t stitch up clients, we don’t make staff redundant just because we can get a better return for shareholders by outsourcing to the Phillipines, and we don’t employ incompetent people just to avoid hurting their feelings.

    3. It is important to get discussion going to understand the meaning behind the "values"and the effect that has…..Everyone says that they want to foster an entreprenuerial spirit but that means supporting an everyday atmosphere where people (down to the lowliest employee) are encouraged to think and challenge and it also means accepting some risk taking with new ideas.

    4. My last soapbox moment is; once you have identified the corporate values, don’t just print them, stick them on a wall and forget about them…..devise a way to make sure that each week you are assessing whether you actually live up to the values you espoused….weave the values into the KPIs and the Appriasal system…otherwise they just become another sad initiative that HR instigated but which no one actually believes or lives by…if this happens it is the most damaging type of hypocricy.

    Now for an answer

    One method I used to great success was to get everyone to come up with "A wish and a promise";

    I asked everyone to complete the "tie breakers";

    "In terms of the way this company operates I wish that……."

    "In terms of my behaviour in this company I promise that…….."

    Single rule; the two must be linked; so if you wish that menegers would listen to what you have to say, you have to promise that you will think before you speak, speak at an appropriate time, speak to the right person and listen to the answer.

    I hope this helps




  3. Great Values Exercise


    I came across a great exercise on ‘Values’  – using values cards. I have used the exercise successfully with large and small groups – can take as little as 30 minutes (bit rushed) or up to 3 hours depending on how much small group and large group debate and consensus you want. Essentially the trainer gives small groups a set of the cards with a different value on each card. The trainer then asks the groups to identify the company’s top 5 values from the list given.

    In the large group debate the different small groups discuss and explain their choice of top 5 values and working as a large group the trainer can help facilitate a discussion to get the group to agree the company’s values. Needs strong facilitation but is a great exercise. I attach below a link to the exercise:

  4. Do you really want to open the box.

    Zoe, where is the drive for this coming from? What is the benefit to the business of being aware of your culture and values? What are the risks? Remember, all this stuff is already there, it’s just below the surface. I you choose to start bringing it "above the line" then you may uncover some issues that can’t be dealt with in an hour.

    For example, in a multi-site company there are going to be some overarching values and some that are local, or peculiar to a business activity. If you go through the exercise and discover that your central management team value control and accountability, but the satellite businesses value creativity and autonomy you have an issue that now needs to be dealt with.

    In terms of facilitated discussions, could you use really down to earth language like:

    What do we do and how do we do it?

    What is it like to work here?

    How do our customers describe us?

    What is important to us/me?

    That might get the discussion started with the board and then you can find out where they want to go next.



  5. Culture

    Hi Zoe

    I use metaphor activities, such as describing the company in terms of a journey, or a circus, or a garden or on a mission, etc. however they see it, which lead to some powerful discussions – and also sometimes disgreements about how the directors perceive the company – which is also worth knowing!

    In terms of values, they ususally ‘fall’ out of this, but I agree with the other comment about using value cards with describers such as ‘Ethical’ ‘Focused’ ‘Innovative’ etc. and the way I’ve done it before is have all the staff vote for their favourites – that way, they all feel involved and will make sure the values are carried out, not just stuck on the wall as a meaningless list of words.

    However…..all this is going to take much longer than 1 hour – after all, isn’t the future of your company? Doesn’t it warrant a bit longer than an hour! I would allocate a day at least!

    Margaret Parkin



  6. company ‘values’

    Over the years I’ve had times of being pretty cynical about all this.

    I came round to the idea of "Actions speak louder than words" – echoing some of what’s already been said.

    This implies that against every "value" there is an action implication.

    eg "We are customer friendly, which means that we ……… ……….." (including both what we do do and (as above) what we don’t do.)

    Each value should be backed up by a challenging scenario where there might be various choices of action, and the group have to choose or describe an action which would match that value.

  7. Linking personal and organisational values

    Hi, Zoe.

    Similarly I have used a deck of 32 cards per particpant (in groups of up to about 30 participants). Each card has a value and a short descriptive paragraph. Foe example: "Courage – ability to stand adversity and being tenacious".

    Individually, each participant chooses 8 values cards that are personally meaningful or relevant to them in a work context. the remaining cards are discarded.

    In pairs, participants use their sets of 8 cards to negotiate and agree on a single set of 8 values that they could both agree to work by.

    In fours, each pair uses their 8 cards to negotiate a shared set of values.

    In eights, ditto.

    As a class, the facilitator uses a whiteboard to record the values of each group of eight. They identify the commonalities and facilitate the negotiation to an agreed set of values.

    At this point, given that the company had an existing set of eight values, these were then revealed to the participants. Regularly, the particpants agreed set of values was an exact match for the organisational values, and, if not, it was always an extremely close match. This is not so suprising as this was how the company’s values were derived a few years earlier at all levels, including the board.

    The benefit of this exercise during induction was that new starters recognised that the values of the organisation made it an organisation they were very happy to work with. The exercise also enabled future informal conversations about values during day to day issues at work. Therefore the values were lived and expressed as part of internal and external communication and conduct by all staff and reinforced by leaders. It should come as no surprise that this was a great place to work.

    Good luck!

  8. Metaphor Exercise

    Building on Margaret’s comments, I have used a metaphor exercise ‘If we were…" with board level/senior managers in which they say of their organisation if we were a car / drink / film, we would be …  I have a list of about ten items.  You can ask them to complete it individually then share – which surfaces quickly whether they see the organisation and its values in the same way.  Alternatively, you can get them to do it collectively.  I then ask them to give me the adjectives that describe why they chose what they chose.  For example, they might choose ‘a pint of bitter’ for the drink and say it is because we are down-to-earth.  This starts to give you the language of the values.  Inevitably, people have a fun time doing this – and a stimulating debate.  You can do this in an hour.  Let me know if you would like my ‘if we were list…’

  9. Thank You

     Thank you all for your replies. It has given me lots of ideas for the exercise.


    Best wishes



No Image Available

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.

Thank you!