We all know that the right culture is essential for an organisation’s success. But organisational culture is abstract, it’s intangible, it’s a gut feeling. Right?

It doesn’t have to be. Culture is very concrete. That’s why I developed the Culture Canvas. No fluffiness, no vague values: Culture becomes as easy as filling in a piece of paper – easy to understand for everyone, concrete to work with, and tangible to change.

Research shows that a good culture leads among other things to higher productivity, more happiness, higher engagement and less sick-leaves. But deep down, we know what amazing things we’re capable of when we feel valued, listened to, and safe.

Start using the Culture Canvas today to support your organisation’s goals and the people around you to perform better.

Why use it:

Observe your current culture:

Doing this is as easy as filling in a piece of paper. Write down what you observe under each category. Finish off by summarising your observations, and voilà that's your organisation's perceived culture.

Understand its impact:

Understand how the culture affects your organisation and its people. Is there a difference in what you say you do, and what you actually do? Do others interpret the culture differently?

Start building the right culture:

How would you like your organisation to be in the future? Know which are the next steps to build a culture that supports both the organisation’s goals and its people to do their best work.

How to use it:

  1. Sit together with a team
  2. Anywhere in between 2-15 people is fine! If it's more, just break up the groups into smaller ones, and break up the process into smaller steps.

  3. Start by defining culture together
  4. Ask each participant what they think culture means to them. Then explain the theory on which the Culture Canvas is built. Below you will find The Iceberg which serves as a good foundation before filling in the canvas.

  5. Fill in the Culture Canvas
  6. Each participant fills the canvas in for themselves. Fill in each smaller box on the top part of the canvas, and leave the big one down below unfilled. You can start with the one you like most. The questions are there to trigger you, but feel free to fill in what you think fits best!

  7. Summarise your observations
  8. Finish off by filling in the espoused beliefs and values box down below by summarising some recurring patterns or themes of everything that you wrote down in the smaller boxes before.

  9. Share with each other
  10. Let everyone share their version of the Culture Canvas, and highlight their most important insights. Does anybody know why these are your organisation's espoused beliefs and values? What do others like and dislike about what they wrote down on the canvas? Ask how others would like to the organisation to be in the future.

  11. Define the next steps
  12. To start build are culture that supports both the organisation’s goals and its people to do their best work, define and write down together which are the three next steps to take, when to have them take place, and who is responsible for them.

    Download the Culture Canvas

Need help?

Having difficulties filling in Culture Canvas with your team?

Want to have a more in-depth dialogue around your culture than you're having now? To get the most value out of the Culture Canvas, I can facilitate you and your team during a 4-hour session to fill in the Culture Canvas, have a in-depth dialogue around your culture, and know what are the right next steps to take.

Want to build the right culture, but don't know where to start? Let's grab a cup of coffee, or a call, so you can explain me your situation, and I can give you advice on what I think is the best way to build your culture.

Reach Out!

Used by:

The theory behind it:

The Culture Canvas is based on the research of Edgard Schein, former professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management – and one of the founders of organisational culture. Furthermore, the structure of the Culture Canvas builds on The Ready's OS Canvas.

Schein's definition of culture is the following:

"Culture is a pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, which has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems."

Schein believed that organisational culture consists of three levels. The model is usually referred to as The Iceberg because one level is visible while the other two are not. The three levels are:

  1. Artifacts
  2. At the surface are the artefacts which includes all the objects and processes that we can see hear and feel when you are experiencing a culture. They can range from the architecture of the office, the clothes colleagues wear, to published values and myths and stories told about the organisation. Though they might be easily observable, their meaning might be hard to decipher or understand.

  3. Espoused beliefs and values
  4. One level below are the espoused beliefs and values. These are day-to-day operating principles by which members of the group guide their behavior. Something that proved successful in the past becomes an assumption and a belief. For example the strategies, mission and values. But they don’t necessarily have to be in line with the values the organisation communicates. 

  5. Underlying basic assumptions
  6. On the lowest level we have the underlying basic assumptions. These are subconscious, taken for granted beliefs. These thoughts and feelings determine our perception and behaviour. Underlying basic assumptions are construced by past experience, science. Examples of assumptions are how nature works, if people are highly motivated or take advantage of us, or how knowledge is acquired.