Change management, Guidance
Changing values: definition & guide to cultural change in your company

Table of contents

Changing values? – Is your company slow & inflexible? Are your employees unmotivated? And you can’t find any new employees? Then it’s time for a change in values!


Changing values: definition & guide to cultural change in your company

In this article, we show you why values are important motivators or demotivators in your company. You will learn how to initiate a change in values in 10 steps.
This change in values ensures that employees feel comfortable in your company, are motivated to work and that your company can master the challenges of the market, the environment and digitalization.


The changing values story
From Zero to Hero – Waldemar’s value chain

CEO Waldemar, 56, has his difficulties…
He has been managing InPu, a Swabian company with around 800 employees that manufactures components for industrial pumps, for five years.
Some production sites are also located in India, and they are currently setting up a joint venture in Shanghai, but the head office has been based in Germany for over 70 years. As far as the structures are concerned, you can’t really speak of an international company yet.

What’s really bad is that the atmosphere in the company is miserable! It’s like a funeral with a divided community of heirs. And that for 5 years…

CEO Leadership Change


Difficulties in the company: Management versus employees

Before Waldemar joined InPu, he was a division manager in a large mechanical engineering group.
The atmosphere there was conservative, but you knew who to talk to in order to achieve what you wanted.
However, Waldemar has never experienced anything like InPu in all these years!

– There is great mistrust in the company:
Most employees seem to assume that managers are more likely to be on the opposing team, that they exploit employees and, on top of that, meticulously look for mistakes. You shouldn’t trust them. That’s why the employees are backed up several times and adhere to every specification to the millimeter, even if some situations would require a more creative solution. – Anyway, it’s better to work to rule than to get stressed. You can feel their heavy relief when the end of the working day finally releases them from this dreary existence…


Bad mood in the team

At the same time, some managers don’t really trust their subordinates:
Trust is good, control is better. And just as the fussy German teacher used to gleefully mark in red what he didn’t find suitable at school, some managers don’t hide their criticism, especially when others are present. This leads to mistrust and wrangling among themselves. The different departments cannot be brought together at the same table, even at company parties or in the canteen. The only thing that can briefly create unity is criticism of the leadership.

Since the beginning of his career, Waldemar has tried to bring a breath of fresh air into the store, to take out the tension and become more modern. But: Nothing there! The workforce believes he is responsible for pretty much everything that is bad, except for pushing for the necessary improvements.
Sure, that’s because the CEO before him ruled like a dictator for almost a decade. But the autocrat has been gone for five years – and yet fear and resentment have made themselves at home in the hearts of the employees since then.


Difficulties Team


Nevertheless, there are a few rays of hope: Julia, the HR manager who joined the company shortly after Waldemar, Armin and Doris, two department heads, Greta, his secretary, and a few employees seem to be keen to make a change. They just don’t know how. In any case, they have signaled their willingness. The ball is in Waldemar’s field.

Even if the few employees “on his side” try to appease the workforce, they can’t get the worm out of their heads.


Challenges from outside the company

As if that were not enough, external factors bring further difficulties:
The company is no longer in the safe waters of recent decades. Competition has arrived from all over the world, requirements are changing: customers want to find solutions immediately and not wait for days. Complaints from customers about slowness and a lack of flexibility have been frequent of late, but in trying to figure out how things could be better in the future, the parties involved have been shooting blame back and forth. There were no really constructive ideas.

A few new hopefuls joined the company, but they usually called in sick after a short time and left before the end of their probationary period. Who can blame them? It is now almost impossible to find new employees. The company is stewing in its own juice.


Which approach helps?

What to do? Waldemar is not stupid. In the almost 30 years that he has been working in corporate management, he has seen all kinds of wondrous methods come and go:
TOMS, KAIZEN, OKR and Lean Six Sigma. In the latter, he counts himself among the Black Belts. He has used some of them in the past and has had success with them.
– Not so in this company. Nothing will bear fruit. He is at his wit’s end. And he’s getting fed up: the cynicism and passive aggression in the company are gradually rubbing off on him.

The pressure from outside the company is increasing every day – and so is the pressure inside. That can’t go well… And so Waldemar also feels under constant pressure and wonders how he is supposed to pull this cart out of the muck. After all, when you meet his employees individually and talk about their families in a relaxed manner, they are just nice people and by no means bloodthirsty employee monsters.
How does he manage to reach them on this human level and get them on board?


Employee values


Corporate culture and changing values

When Waldemar calls us, a Siberian wind is blowing in his company. Good prospects: unfortunately none. The prevailing corporate culture is more than unpleasant and damages the company. – That has to change! We talk to Waldemar and his confidants and also to people in all kinds of positions in the company. This gives us a good impression of what the current topics and attitudes are – and where the shoe ultimately pinches. Many people are suspicious of us at first, because we come from the boss, who knows what that’s going to be…

As is so often the case, it quickly becomes clear that everyone in the company actually wants a pleasant workplace. Due to the disenchantment of recent years, however, there is no real vision and certainly no unified idea of how things could be improved. In order to approach the existing corporate culture, understand it and ultimately change it, we decide to work with the people in the company on and with their values.
Changing values? Why, why, why? And what values do we actually need?

Corporate culture

Definition of corporate culture

Corporate culture is the sum of values, rules and views that determine how company employees behave, make decisions and deal with others externally and internally. Corporate culture is shaped by beliefs, stories, rituals, symbols and the working environment.

If you want to know more: We have written a very detailed article on the topic of corporate culture: Corporate Culture & Cultural Change: Definition, Examples, Tips for Success


Corporate culture



Goal: A corporate culture that suits us

When people deal with the topic of corporate culture, they often notice very quickly if the existing culture does not match what the company needs to achieve.
Two other factors are also essential: a culture should also suit the people who work in the company, but also the people who are yet to join the company.

1. the current employees and their values

Do the people in the company feel comfortable? Is there a flow? Or do the employees feel that their values are being ignored? Is there a conflict?
What is a conflict of values?
If Michael’s professional ethos is to work on things so long that the result is German workmanship with at least a 10-year guarantee, but according to the company’s strategy he is supposed to churn out large quantities of cheap parts at the drop of a hat, then this will cause a conflict for him and the company.
A conflict of values is one of the most important reasons why people leave companies: If they feel that they are not landing with what is really important to them, then the urge to move on is strong.

2. values in recruiting – the values of future employees

When looking for new employees, you should ask yourself the question: does our culture match the values of the people we want to attract? Every company and its culture has an impact on the labor market. Do the people your company needs also want to work for you? If, for example, you’re looking for someone who can easily manage your social media channels in a start-up style, but your culture is about as modern and flexible as the land registry, then Mr. and Mrs. Social Media Surfer are guaranteed not to apply to you. And if they do, they quickly leave again because they realize that your culture doesn’t suit them.


Start Up



Outer values versus inner values

Of course, the internal strife and frustration that the employees are dealing with in the coffee kitchen is not to be found in the job advertisement. Our external appearance seems to be independent of our internal culture: We all have beautiful glossy websites on which we praise our company, our employees and our mission to the skies. Everything is great with us!
But: good on the outside and bad on the inside quickly come to light! Through platforms like Kununu, prospective employees can very quickly find out how the company’s internal hare is running. And if the existing culture resembles a hack-and-slash…. – well, would you want to work there then?


3.values that we need

Corporate culture is much more than a feel-good indicator for (potential) company employees. It’s not just about how people treat each other, but also about the way processes work.
In Waldemar’s company, for example, the employees have every handshake approved, confirmed and acknowledged so that there is no trouble. Of course, this takes time: if Doris, the line manager, is not there, employee Uwe circles her office like a bird of prey waiting for the right moment. And when he finally gets the go-ahead after two days, the annoyed customer has already closed the deal with the understanding competition, who immediately says “sure – let’s do it!”. First come, first served… and so on…

In other words: if you need quick decisions in your company – and this is often the case in today’s fast-paced world – then you don’t need a highly hierarchical, controlling culture. Then you need a culture that also enables your employees to make their own decisions quickly.

But – how do you get there? How can you establish a corporate culture that doesn’t even begin to exist yet? This is where values and changing values come into play…





Definition of values

Values are emotionally charged qualities that are so important to people that they are guided by them; they are the basis for beliefs and ideals; people derive their behavior from them.

Why are values important?

Societies or groups often share the same values. Values trigger emotions: If they are lived, then you feel good. However, you feel uncomfortable if you do not live up to your own values or if you are in an environment where your own values are violated.
Values are so important to people that they change their lives or go into conflicts (yes, even wars) for them. People leave companies where they cannot identify with the values practiced and are happy to stay if the corporate culture matches their own values. It is therefore worth understanding which values motivate people.

Values are for example

Justice, fairness, friendship, appreciation, tradition, honesty, openness, trust, love, neutrality, consistency, integrity, individuality, strength, reliability, team spirit, discipline, creativity, modesty, empathy, efficiency, decency, reputation…
There is, of course, much more. What unites them is that they are nouns that cannot be seen or eaten, but which describe a quality that people have an emotional idea of what it feels like for them when it is there. Or if it is not there.


Why are values important in a company?

Sure, you don’t want to go to war with your company, but it can be assumed that your company will also have to deal with many a challenge. And for that you need motivated people! People who are keen to take your company forward and who are happy to do what they do because they do it out of conviction, because they think it makes sense.

Someone who values sustainability will not work for a fast fashion label to ensure that teenagers are sold new cheap fashion every month, but can work wonders in a company for ecological, fairly produced designer fashion.



Employer branding

A change in values is heralded…


Changing values

Definition of changing values

Value change describes the change in social norms, world views and values, which usually takes place over a longer period of time.

Definition of value change in the company
A change in values is the process in which the difference between the current and desired corporate culture is identified, concretized and then addressed with the aim of establishing the desired culture.

How does a change in values work?

Changing values, a brief overview

How, what – change in values? How does that work? – We will first give you a brief overview here.
Later, we will show you in 10 steps how you can implement a change in values in your company. Even virtually.

1.identify values

Your employees discuss the topic of values and answer the following questions:

  1. What values are important to us personally?
  2. What does the current value landscape in the company look like?
  3. What values does the company need to be successful in the future?

The result is then discussed:
What does this mean for our company? Where do we stand? Where do we want to go?


Dear employees


2.concretize values

All well and good. Now you have your values in black and white, but what do you do with them? Somehow this has to seep into your everyday life.
You develop guidelines from the values you have defined. These are attitudes that are based on these values. For example, if a value is reliability, then the guiding principle would be: “We reliably keep our promises!”
Next, you derive behaviors from the guidelines:
* If, for example, a deadline has been agreed for the submission of a document, then you stick to it. If you can’t hold it, then let us know in good time.
* If someone sends you an e-mail, you will reply within 24 hours.
* Or if someone asks you to call them back, you call them back within 24 hours.
Of course, you cannot define behaviors for every situation. That’s why the behaviors are more of an orientation – like guard rails on the highway: you have several lanes, you can drive however you want, but the direction is clearly marked out. And this is also how you notice whether or not behaviors fit into the framework you have defined.

3.implement values

The change in values has been initiated! Now it’s time to put it into practice in everyday life. This is the biggest challenge of all and only works through regular dialog throughout the company: The culture is discussed again and again, the ACTUAL and TARGET are compared in retrospectives, positive examples of lived values are highlighted and critical ones are addressed.
Managers in particular have a major influence on the culture and it is with them that an intensive process must begin to bring about change.

So much for the overview. As promised, we will delve deeper and in more detail into the value change process in the rest of the article.

Do you want to learn more about values and corporate culture first? Here you go:

Corporate culture & cultural change: definition, examples, tips for success

Why you should actively shape value management in your company

The Graves value system: what is really important to people


Cultural Change


Why is a change in values important?

Sure, there are companies where things are going well: Customers and employees are happy, everyone is doing their best, business is booming, recruiters are bombarded with applications… Oh, how beautiful!

AAAAAbut – that is the case for very few people:

The Gallup Study

Let’s start with: “Everyone does their best.”
The Gallup Engagement Index is published annually and looks at the motivation and emotional attachment of employees to the company, among other things. The results are not rosy: only 17% feel strongly connected to their company, 68% have a low level of loyalty – and 17% have internally resigned and are disgruntled about their working day. This means that 85% of the workforce is not particularly motivated, and brilliant performance is not to be expected.
Gallup Engagement Index quote: “The economic costs of internal dismissal amount to between 96.1 and 113.9 billion euros.” – Pretty steep, isn’t it?
It doesn’t have to be that way: When employees see their values lived out in the company, it creates a sense of purpose and loyalty. And motivation comes from this. – This is why a change in values is necessary in many companies. And it also pays off financially.


Gallup study



We have already written a lot about VUCA . VUCA (acronym for volatile, unpredictable, complex, ambiguous) describes our times: digitalization, globalization and a few other factors mean that we are living in a time of rapid change. Markets are changing, new technology is coming onto the market at ever shorter intervals and customers expect companies to react quickly. To put it colloquially: “Everything is getting faster and faster.”
In view of these challenges, many companies are realizing that their corporate culture is too rigid and inflexible for this rapid, permanent change. It dawns on them that they need to be more agile. At this point, a company should consider what values it needs in order to remain or become successful.



This has already been mentioned: Many companies see from the lack of applications from young people that their traditional corporate culture is not particularly attractive to young people. Linus and Ann-Sophie prefer to work in a relaxed environment and don’t want to have to dress up and pretend every day. They love flexible working hours and personal responsibility and make an effort when the work makes sense to them.
However, if there are no applications, then it is time to look at the values and culture in the company and initiate changes.


There are many reasons to deal with values in the company. And it’s worth it:
A change in values lays the foundation for a process of change towards a modern, fast and contemporary company.


Define values


How to define values?

“Ha!” thinks Waldemar “Values? – Well, that’s old hat! – Is that what the consultant fiffis want to clean up with us now? Really now? – We’ve already done that!” – And he slams a glossy brochure on the table to prove it:
“You know, we already did that with the values three years ago: I met with my department heads and we defined our values: Performance, quality – and um – another value… um… I don’t know now. Never mind! It’s in the brochure. Well, Greta, my secretary then summarized it really nicely in a PowerPoint. Didn’t she, Greta? And then our managers publicized it at meetings throughout the company.” He raises his eyebrows meaningfully: “But it didn’t help at all. Absolutely nothing! – I don’t see why we should do it again!”

He’s right! They shouldn’t do that again, because writing down a few values and then reading them out to everyone won’t do anything other than make employees roll their eyes, let alone change the culture.
The way Waldemar and his managers have handled values is unfortunately the way most companies operate. We come across this time and again: something is formulated in a small group that is supposed to sound good, but is so bland and interchangeable that even the marketing department waves it off. Performance and quality… Well. Blah blah blah…
Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with the values that actually shape or should shape culture. And so the so-called values quickly disappear into a drawer. Shut up; monkey dead.
Continue as before.


Include all query values


Values from above versus values from all

Involve everyone!

Defining values should be a quasi-democratic process: it comes from below, everyone can and ideally should cast their vote and – the more people actively get involved, the better it works. And as in a democracy, there are delegates. This has absolutely nothing to do with values dictated from above.
If a change in values is to be successful, it is important that as many people as possible are involved in the development of the new culture and are committed to the defined values! This means that ideally all employees should be involved, but at least as many as possible.

“And what if the employees then define values that we can’t even use in the company?” you might ask? That would be a result that says a lot and that you have to deal with. After all, a company can only be successful if its values are supported by its employees. Ignoring a discrepancy will get you nowhere; however, recognizing it is a starting point. – But maybe try trust first. Our experience is that people at grassroots level often know surprisingly well what it takes for their company to be successful.


Create value profile


The journey is the reward: defining values shapes corporate culture

The journey is the goal: Working out the values with people at all hierarchical levels makes the culture present in the company and helps to revitalize it.
The employees can express what is really important to them, how they view the current atmosphere in the company – and also express criticism. And the answer to the question: “What values do we need to be successful?” also requires a great deal of insight, constructiveness and taking the company’s perspective.

Beware of platitudes!

The value landscape of every company is unique. This means that the values can be completely opposite at another company. It’s not about defining values for a company that would somehow fit everywhere – for example, trust. Of course everyone wants trust. That would be a commonplace.
The opposite of trust is mistrust – and of course nobody wants that. So it’s not about finding values that everyone wants to have in their company. Rather, it is about determining where to start between two possible poles: one wants stability, the other wants flexibility. Uwe needs team spirit, Greta appreciates individuality. Where does the company stand?

Waldemar suspects that his collection of values – “performance, quality and something” – offers neither an explanation nor a solution to the poor mood in the company, but that a company-wide values survey could be a good start. “I’m interested in what they all have here. This place has been a minefield for five years. People are always going crazy. Let’s talk about it openly.” Waldemar is on board – we’re ready to go!


Ambassador Value change process



Waldemar’s company employs 800 people. And, of course, they also have other things to do than deal exclusively with values. For us, this means that we start by getting everyone on board with a kick-off event (online, for example), but then delegates represent the employees. In Waldemar’s company, that’s around 60 ambassadors. These ambassadors then discuss the results in smaller groups of employees and present them to the plenum. In this way, we can incorporate the opinions of all colleagues into the process.



Changing values: live or virtual?

It’s clear: discussing live with other people, meeting others, laughing together – that’s of course much more fun than staring at screens! And if the general circumstances and conditions in the company allow it, then it’s a great experience to meet up with everyone. No question about it.
The pandemic has taught us that we can do a lot of things well even if we’re not all in the same place. And so, in times of lockdown and working from home, we worked virtually with several companies on their values. This works very well and is also less time-consuming and less expensive than live meetings in large groups. “During the lockdown, we experienced a gigantic team development process that brought the whole company closer together,” a customer recently marveled.
We also work virtually with Waldemar’s company. And that makes everyone happy.

Virtual meeting

The basic ingredients for a change in values

1. talk to your employees about values

We saw with Waldemar what is guaranteed not to work: if you want to impose a great culture from above, but your employees don’t support it at all. – That would be reckoning without the landlord. If you’re at a lousy party and the host keeps saying: “What a nice party, now smile” – you’re not going to get into a better mood.
In order to be able to take your employees’ values into account in the future culture you are aiming for, you first need to know their values. And that means asking your employees what is important to them, talking to them about values and corporate culture.


2. where is the problem in the company? Check leadership and structure!

We have already described it above: if your company needs to react quickly, then you also need employees who are able to do so. So far so good.
But there are other factors too. The management and structure should also support this value or enable its implementation:
If employee Uwe wants to satisfy the customer quickly and accommodatingly, he should not have to have his goodwill countersigned by Doris. – No! Uwe needs scope for decision-making and a budget. Only when he can decide for himself instead of having to wait for his superiors can he provide the customer with an immediate solution. Uwe likes that: “It would give me more opportunities to do my job well. It’s a really stupid feeling to want to help the customer quickly but not be allowed to. I always have to put the customer off.”




Birgit is a person who likes to have clear guidelines and is comfortable with routine tasks. Safety is an important value for them. She likes to leave responsibility to others, because her fear of making mistakes stresses her out too much when she has to make decisions. Her company is currently undergoing a cultural change towards more personal responsibility and flexible decisions at the grassroots level. Birgit doesn’t feel well: “What? This has been decided by management for years. Why should I do that now? If I’m also supposed to take on the job of manager now, then I’ll get more money too!” Secretly, she hopes that this chalice will pass her by. She has already looked at job advertisements. A nice quiet job in a public authority… that would be it…!


3. you need the commitment of the team – “We’re in!”

It’s not just about the management knowing the values of the employees. It is also about employees knowing, endorsing and supporting the values that are essential for the company both internally and externally.
It doesn’t take much:
It is enough if the colleagues are asked about their attitude and then realize that what the workforce has said has actually been incorporated into the process. The aim is not to address each person’s values in detail, but to ensure that employees feel represented.
Or as Uwe sums it up: “We worked together and as an employee I was able to express my opinion, I was listened to. I find myself in the value profile.” – Sure. This is because the profile is not made up out of thin air. Wink smiley.



Oliver shows the foundations for a change in values:

What if the values do not match?

“That’s all well and good,” says Waldemar. “But you can see how muddled the situation is here. I’m really worried that the values don’t fit. That I have something completely different in mind than the employees. – And then what? What do I do then?”
Good question! – These concerns are realistic and we hear them again and again.

First of all, a value analysis is not the reason why values do not fit in the company. Like the print cartridge fill level, the value analysis simply shows what is currently there. – It also provides information on which steps should be taken next.

The values clash

One example of a value clash is Otto-Versand. We remember: In the pre-digital era, Otto-Versand published a five-kilo catalog of fashion and consumer goods twice a year. The goal for the employees was: “How can we get the entire department store into a print template once every six months?”
And then suddenly this crazy Internet came along and demanded that Otto become an online company. Among other things, this meant publishing new articles every week. It was a completely different job and of course required a completely different approach. However, the Otto employees didn’t like this at all; they preferred to stick to the old ways. The change process failed. At some point, it became clear that Otto would need colleagues with different qualifications for the new tasks, but above all with different values.


Values Clash


Solutions for value differences

It needs a breath of fresh air! Sometimes it can help to fill key positions with so-called “game changers”.
So one option is to hire new people who already bring the right values with them and thereby change the existing culture. Depending on the existing corporate culture, this can work very well. – But it doesn’t have to.
Imagine: new employees from the start-up scene suddenly appear in an old-fashioned, somewhat staid, thoroughly regulated company. Oh dear…! Some people in the business world know every rule by their first name, otherwise they are on a first-name basis, while others bring their racing bikes to the office, put their feet up on the table and are always excitedly coming up with new ideas. It doesn’t seem to help anyone: Some feel startled, others like they are cast in concrete.

This reminds Waldemar of Timo, 28, who came to Waldemar’s company from Zalando. In the morning, he threw a cheerful “Hi!” into the bewildered crowd. He did not comply with the expectation to shake everyone’s hand and was also in an outrageously good mood. The older gentlemen attested to his blatant lack of manners. Within weeks, Timo became an outcast. – And then he was gone again. Had found something better…

Otto-Versand solved its value clash in this way: Otto added a second, new company to its own. This was a kind of start-up that set up a completely new business model. And there were younger, internet-savvy employees here who didn’t have to explain to anyone why they wore woolly hats in summer.


  Project Management


The scientific background for a change in values: the Graves Value System

We know that there are really many values. But how do we bring order into this?
– This work has already been done by the US psychologist Clare W. Graves. The value system he developed is called the Graves Value Model (GVS). Professor Graves created a value system based on eight so-called “memes”.

Cluster values
These memes are value clusters and subsume values and attitudes. Each meme was given a color to make it easier to distinguish them.
The explanations of the individual memes are extensive, which is why we have dedicated a separate article to them: The Spiral Dynamics value model: What really matters to people


Overview of meme values according to Graves

Here is a brief overview of colors and the values assigned to them:


1. beige – survival (this meme is – thankfully – not needed in the corporate world)
2. purple – identification, belonging together, security in the group
3. red – power, struggle, energy, competition, impulsive, selfish
4. blue – order, structure, clarity, adherence to rules
5. orange – performance, success, profit maximization, entrepreneurial
6. green – community, team-oriented, egalitarian, human, consensus-oriented
7. yellow – synergy, integrative, pragmatic, flexible, networking, learning, creative
8. turquoise – sustainability, holistic, ecological, mindful of consequences



What is a values meme?

We explain this briefly using the blue order meme as an example.
In the blue order meme we find values such as clarity, adherence to rules, structure, order and control. With these values, we are successful in a stable environment with a higher order, such as a market regulated by stable laws. However, if the environment becomes more dynamic, the system reaches its limits.
In an environment that is constantly changing and very complex, the values from the yellow system such as flexibility, transparency, lifelong learning and creative collaboration are needed to be successful.
Clare Graves said: “There are no better or worse value systems, but there are value systems that are more or less suitable for the respective conditions. As environmental requirements become more complex, increasingly sophisticated value systems are required in order to be successful in the respective environment.”


Value management cards


The process based on the Graves Value System: The Value Party

We have developed a card game, the Value Party, for working with values. The cards contain individual values, each of which is assigned to the corresponding meme by color. This provides a very good representation of a company’s value landscape.

Our aim is to use the cards to illustrate what we have described in detail above: what are…

  1. …the individual values of the employees?
  2. …values currently practiced in the company?
  3. And which values should be practiced in order to be successful?


Value Party: Virtual or live?

Basically: both are possible and of course there are also mixed forms.
Before the pandemic, we mainly worked with face-to-face formats. And as mentioned at the beginning: most people enjoy talking to their colleagues live.
But hey, nobody needs to be held back from such important development processes by lockdowns or working from home.
For companies with several locations, virtual is the more practical way anyway: it doesn’t require large premises, travel time or travel costs and is therefore much less time-consuming and costly.
We have had good experiences with virtual value change and look forward to continuing this after the pandemic.


Zoom Conference Kickoff


10 steps to a change in values

Step 1 towards a change in values: the kick-off

The preparation

We bring ambassadors and managers together in a virtual kick-off workshop, provide background information and prepare them for discussions with employees.

The mood at InPu is good. Ambassadors and managers are optimistic and excited. They are looking forward to getting in touch – and above all, they want to dispel the dark clouds that have been hanging over the company for years.

Uwe is delighted to be able to act as an ambassador. He was often annoyed about how things were going in the company and complained about it with others. But he never saw any concrete opportunities to change anything. That was frustrating. Now he feels a bit like he did when he was class representative and is happy to find open ears.
Waldemar is nervous. He has to hold back for now and wait and see. “Will it all work out?”

The kick-off with all

The project is presented to all employees in another short kick-off Zoom session. There is the opportunity to discuss what you have heard in small groups.

The InPu colleagues write a few comments in the chat; Waldemar takes a curious look: there are some hopeful statements, but also a lot of skepticism. Many wish to remain anonymous. But at least everyone in the company now knows. Let’s get started!



All beginnings are difficult! Here is a video in which Susanne explains how to get employees excited about an upcoming change.

2nd step towards a change in values: asking employees about their values

Small workshops and one-on-one discussions take place: The ambassadors from the company’s own ranks and the managers ask the employees for their assessment.

  1. What is important to you personally?
  2. How do you feel at work? What works, what doesn’t? How do you perceive the interaction within the company?
  3. What do you think we need to be successful? What do you think when you see the challenges of the coming months and years? What kind of culture do you think we will need for this? What values should be practiced? What is important?


Two perspectives

In Waldemar’s company, the employees are each asked these questions by an ambassador and a manager. – Why?
Employees can talk to the ambassadors without fear of hierarchies and consequences. The greatest possible openness prevails here, and that is what is needed!

Nevertheless, we included both sides in the process, as managers are culture builders, i.e. people who have a major influence on the corporate culture. By talking to their employees, managers get a feel for what is important to their employees. And far more than if you just told them about it. And: talking about values is already part of the value change process.

Manager Doris puts it like this: “It went well. I was open to what would come out of it, but critical. It’s not the first time we’ve tried something. I’m really surprised that I was able to talk to everyone so intensively. I also have the feeling now that we’re all in the same boat. I didn’t have that before.”


Steps towards a change in values

3rd step towards value change: Creating the value statement on the (online) whiteboard

On a shared online whiteboard, the participating ambassadors use the values cards we developed, which reflect the values of the respondents. This creates an overall picture.

You can read exactly how we use and evaluate the cards in our article: How to create a value profile and use it to change your company.

Waldemar is almost knocked off his chair. Finally, what he has been aware of all this time has been written down! He is emotionally moved. “Wow. I can understand my people. That’s worth a lot to me! – But how do we summarize it now? How do I make sense of it?”
No problem: in the next step, we bring the statements together:



Value statement


Step 4: Create the value profile

The value statements are combined to form a value profile. At the end, there are three bars for each value cluster, e.g. energy, order, community or synergy.
These indicate:

  1. First bar of each color: how important the employees personally find this value cluster,
  2. Second bar of each color: how much it is lived in the company (company ACTUAL)
  3. Third bar of each color: how important the employees consider this meme to be for the success of the company (company TARGET)

Here we see the value profile from Waldemar’s company InPu.

Value statement


A few characteristics stand out in the bar chart:

Stinky finger on red (power/energy), blue (order) and orange (performance)

Red contains values such as power, authority, assertion, being the strongest… A cluster of values that is lived in a context in which there are no clear rules and the strongest prevail. Here, decisions are made by force and people tend to be afraid of the “higher-ups”. Upper trumps lower is the motto. This meme has the shape of a stinky finger or peak. This means that the employees personally have virtually no preference for the values of this meme (first bar), but this meme is perceived by many as existing in the company (second bar). The employees also believe that much less of this would be needed for the company to be successful. So there is pressure on this system and the employees want to be freed from it.

We also find the stinky finger formation in blue, order. There seems to be pressure here too. So there are far more rules, structure and order than the employees would like or consider beneficial for the future. A typical image for hierarchical, bureaucratic corporate cultures.


A “U” on green (team) and yellow (synergy), a small “U” on turquoise (sustainability)

Green stands for values such as community, consensus, team, cooperation at eye level and fairness. Here we see a “U” formation, which indicates that these values are considered important by the majority of employees, both personally AND for the success of the company. However, the values are not practiced enough in the company and there is a feeling of lack among employees. We see something similar – slightly less pronounced – in yellow. The yellow values, such as flexibility, networking, creative collaboration, etc. – We know this meme under the keyword agility – are perceived as a lack by Waldemar’s employees. The meme “sustainability” with values such as “orientation towards nature” or “responsibility for the future of life” has not yet been practiced in Waldemar’s company, but should also become more important in the future.

Waldemar is impressed. The value profile shows exactly what his gut feeling tells him – not in such a structured way, of course. The diffuse feeling has finally become visible and discussable.


Understanding values


5th step towards value change: Evaluating and understanding the value profile

The value profile is explained to managers and ambassadors at a joint event – the first “ValueParty Workshop”.

Important individual values are also visible, for example the value “Flexibility” is to go up by 15 points and the value “Power” is to go down by 9 points, namely to “0”. The troops’ reaction to the evaluation is similar to Waldemar’s. People feel understood. They carefully exchange ideas with each other via the beams. In small groups of five or six people, ambassadors and managers consider the situations in which they feel the pressure or lack of memes and what the value profile means for the company in concrete terms:

  • What daily behavior of our employees and managers do we need more of?
  • What do we need less of?
  • In which situations do we realize that there is a lack or pressure?

Uwe initially holds back in the conversation, but when he realizes that everyone is making an effort to talk openly, it bursts out of him. He remembers a decision in which he was able to assess the situation on site with the customer much better than the upper floors. But the leadership has asserted itself without really listening to him. The customer was not satisfied, and neither was Uwe. The decision did not improve the situation, but it had the potential to do so.
In such cases, Uwe would like to see more green “consensus” or yellow “personal responsibility” for him, the local people, instead of red “enforcement”. It is strange for him to talk about it, but he makes an effort not to attack anyone personally and notices that the managers – some secretly, others openly – are also signaling approval in his direction. That gives him courage.

Greta has another example: “I’ve been ordering a small lunch for my boss’s customer events for 15 years. For 15 years, I’ve often had to wait days or even weeks for the boss’s signature to be able to spend the same amount. That costs me time that I could use more productively if people would simply trust me here. She would like to see more yellow “Personal freedom” instead of blue – “Adhere to rules”


Cards from the Synergy meme


6th step towards a change in values: What values are needed now?

In order to translate the results of the value profile into everyday corporate life, each participant considers which values will be needed in the future. What do we need to focus on now in order to achieve the desired values? What values do we want to use to shape the change in values?

Everyone selects three value terms and places them in a (virtual) basket. In the subsequent small group, they should agree on up to 5 terms per group. The participants have often chosen different values, but they are in a similar direction. Relatively quickly, the group jointly selects five values that they think summarize the desired future culture well.

Uwe’s group chooses two yellow values (flexibility and transparency), two green values (team and fairness) and there is also an orange value: customer enthusiasm. Keeping an eye on the customer instead of getting bogged down in internal disputes is particularly important for Uwe and his colleagues in Service.
In this way, value priorities crystallize through consensus from the small groups.


Small group on changing values


7th step towards a change in values: choosing

The Council of Values Officers

In order to get to the heart of the matter and work out an essence, a council meets with one person from each small group. The so-called values officer compares the small group values with the values officers of the other small groups. Uwe is happy to represent the values proposals of his small group as values representative.

The values officers meet and assess the 5-7 values that each small group has previously developed. You cluster and sort. The values are usually very similar and clear trends can be derived from them. The group selects 4-7 values, depending on how many values the company would like to have. With this result, the values officers then go back to all managers and ambassadors and present their selection.
The following applies: The values are only changed again if someone has a clear veto, otherwise you rely on the group’s suggestion.

The values officers in Waldemar’s company agree on the following values:

  1. Flexibility (yellow)
  2. Transparency (yellow)
  3. Team (green)
  4. Customer enthusiasm (orange)
  5. Sustainability (turquoise)

After a long discussion, sustainability is included because Julia, the HR manager, emphasizes that this value is very important to many people – and also to many applicants and potential employees: “If we want to position ourselves well for the future, we have to position ourselves here!” Since Fridays for Future, it has become clear to everyone that young people have started to pay attention to their planet and therefore also to sustainability. The value is inside.

Uwe is happy with the selection. He can identify well with this and knows from talking to his colleagues that their values are also well represented here.


Values according to Graves


8th step towards a change in values: developing guiding principles

Managers and ambassadors meet. The values officers present the five values and explain why they agreed on them. A vote is taken. Nobody draws the veto card. – A complete success: the values are generally accepted.

The values are discussed in small groups:

  1. What do these values mean for us now?
  2. What guiding principles can we derive from this to provide orientation?
  3. Which behavior is part of the values?

What really helps here is the preparatory work from the last workshop and, of course, the discussions with the employees. It quickly becomes clear where the journey is headed.
The task now is to develop concrete guiding principles based on the values in order to bring the values to life in everyday life.


Develop guidelines


At InPu, there is a long discussion about which guiding principle should be used to describe the topic of “constructive handling of errors” . At the end, head of department Doris makes the suggestion to formulate a guiding principle on “Learning from mistakes” under the value of transparency. Waldemar quietly thinks that the discussion is almost more important than the result itself. Because the fear of making mistakes runs deep and hinders developments, ensuring that everyone keeps their ideas to themselves and avoids responsibility.
Waldemar – and many others – have often noticed that manager Armin has great difficulty letting go and trusting: He often reacts very indignantly to mistakes. When he enters the room, his subordinates often prick up their ears as a precaution. Armin is quite quiet in the discussion, but Waldemar somehow has the feeling that Armin has understood something. The future will tell.


From value to behavior



9th step of the value change: Bringing values into the company

Major steps have been taken; results are available: Values and guiding principles have been finalized.
Now it’s about shaping communication with all employees. They need the opportunity to discuss the new values and find ways to implement them.

Large group conference

The first step is to convene a large group conference with all colleagues. The new values were introduced in a very lively presentation in which all ambassadors and managers took part. Employees have the opportunity to give feedback and ask questions.

Dialogs and discussion rounds

In the second step, the ambassadors are provided with discussion guidelines. Now it’s time for them to re-engage in dialog with the colleagues they represent and discuss in small groups how these values can be brought to life. The aim is to initiate a discussion:

  • These are our values – how hard are we living them right now?
  • And if not – what are we missing?
  • Where exactly should we start?
  • What can we do as a team?
  • What can each individual do?

The team discusses which attitudes are fundamental and which concrete actions follow from them so that the change in values can be put into practice.

Uwe is proud of himself. In the meantime, the workshop moderation is working quite well. And he also enjoys discussing topics such as values and culture with his colleagues. But it’s not just the joy of lively conversation – Uwe realizes that it makes sense and is fundamental for upcoming changes. At the same time, he realizes that he has a long and not always easy road ahead of him. Because a few discussions do not make a cultural change…


Values in the company


Cross-company fields of action

Fortunately, the results of the workshops were summarized and cross-company fields of action were derived.
One area of action, for example, is the management style at InPu. As the saying goes, the fish stinks from the head and Waldemar is well aware that the management still has some room for improvement.

Waldemar discusses with Julia, the HR manager, how best to tackle the issue. You arrange a series of workshops for all managers. They want to discuss the effect of leadership on corporate culture, sensitize managers to their own responsibility in terms of culture – and point out alternatives to previous leadership styles.
It is clear to Waldemar that he has to keep at it. He must also lead by example here. He eyes his own behavior suspiciously. More often, he finds himself not making a decision that he would have made in no time at all in the past. Sometimes he only slows down at the last minute…
Instead, he now lets his colleagues do the work and does not interfere in the outcome. He finds it difficult, especially when his colleague chooses a different path than Waldemar would have done. Then he often has to bite his tongue and force himself to smile. But: it works! And many practicable solutions come to light that Waldemar would never have thought of himself.


Cocktail Workshop Values


Cocktail workshop

The InPu ambassadors like Uwe work with homogeneous teams, i.e. with people from the same departments. In addition, workshops are held in which employees from all departments of the company take part. We call these meetings cocktail workshops because it is important to mix up the employees as colorfully as possible like a good cocktail. This is because different perspectives are represented. This is where topics are discussed that are important for the entire company and for cooperation between individual departments.

In Waldemar’s company, it turns out that several departments are in a competitive relationship due to individual target agreements. This makes it difficult to get the desired “team” value to flourish. So a project is set up to remove this obstacle.


Solve problems


10. solve individual problems

Just because problems are recognized and named does not mean they have been solved.

Uwe’s department complains that Doris, the manager, does not live up to the desired values and does not make them possible. Doris doesn’t really want to let go of the reins, so although she takes the official line of more self-organization and freedom of decision on the part of the employees, she keeps an eye on everything and controls everything where she can. Whenever Birgit decides something in the interests of the customer, she faces a headwind made by Doris. The employees would like to see something change in this regard.

Armin’s team has other difficulties: “At the interface with our neighboring team, we notice that we have processes that are too rigid. It always takes forever! We need to change a process there.” The parties involved need to sit down together and establish new, flexible processes that meet all requirements.

By clearly identifying culture, problems and a shared vision, but above all by talking to each other, the company has become much more open. This makes it much easier for employees to identify specific team-specific issues that can then be addressed. The employees have learned that change is wanted and that they are being listened to. And now they are daring to come out of the woodwork and point out problem areas. Even criticism of managers comes to the table.

Sometimes it is sufficient to discuss problems internally and look for solutions together; sometimes, however, such specific problems require professional moderation from outside.
– If you need it: ask us! We are happy to do this.


Corporate culture Change in values


And now? – Everyday life with changing values

Discussing the topic of values in your own company should not remain a one-off affair. It is ideal to establish regular appointments for this so that adjustments can always be made. As the workforce deals with the issue, it becomes easier to talk about it.

A change in values is a longer process that should be continued!


Monthly pulse check

Once a month, Inpu now offers a pulse check to briefly query online how the values are currently being lived from the employees’ perspective. In an online meeting with a changing workforce, the result is shown, the reasons for good or bad values are explained and measures are taken. This keeps the topic of corporate culture alive. Each individual is aware that their behavior will be reflected in the pulse check. Regular discussions help to maintain awareness of the desired values. The discussion rounds across the company also strengthen the sense of togetherness within the team.


Change Agents


How long does a change in values take?

That was the start, the beginning of a change in values.

“Good,” says Waldemar, “it was necessary for all of us, we learned a lot. Things are also going much better. Not just with each other – business is also better. But when will we finally be done with this change in values? How much longer will the fun last?”

A culture only changes slowly!
A strategy can be changed within 100 days, a structure within a year, a culture takes years. Yes, you read that right: Years.
In one company, the culture changes fundamentally within three years, in another company it takes ten years.

In any case, cultural change is a lengthy process; it is a marathon and not a sprint.
The speed of change depends on how this process is accompanied, lived and taken on by the people in the company.

Changes tend to take place gradually. The extent of the change is greater than we realize on a daily basis.
Richard von Weizsäcker


And you like this?

Is your company creaking and squeaking in every possible corner? Employees grumble in frustration, things aren’t really progressing, somehow something could be better – but what exactly?
Of course, we will only be able to say exactly how you could proceed once we have seen your company’s value profile.
Let us surprise you! 🙂 And feel free to contact us.




Successful change in values




Studies & reading on the topic of changing values

Long article, but you still haven’t had enough of the topic of changing values? Well then, here’s some more reading material for you.


We have already dealt a little with the topic of values, corporate culture and cultural change. Here are our articles on related topics:

Why you should actively shape value management in your company

The Graves value system: what is really important to people

The Spiral Dynamics value model: what is really important to people

How to create a value profile and use it to change your company

Corporate culture & cultural change: definition, examples, tips for success

Error culture before error management! How your company learns from mistakes

Digital leadership – new times, new leadership!




1 The Gallup study also looked at the topic of employee motivation and emotional loyalty to the company in 2020. Here you can download the results of the study – with your data – as a pdf.

2. the American sociologist Ronald Inglehart identified a drastic change in values in the western world from materialistic (wealth and possessions) to post-materialistic values (self-realization and communication) as early as the 1970s

3 The marketer Ad Alliance examined the attitudes and values of Germans after ten months of the pandemic in Germany.

4 “The German Values Index is published every two years by Professor Peter Wippermann and Jens Krüger and is compiled together with the Kantar research team and Trendbüro. The Values Index shows the current top 10 changing values in our society. This is based on an analysis of around 3.3 million posts on German-language social media channels. In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, a coronavirus update was published for the 2020 Values Index.”

5. the change in values in the world of work due to Generation Y: How companies can react and act sensibly in personnel management by Max Leo Rodeck: ebook

6 ValUES & VISIONS 2030 What is important to us tomorrow – by Hannes Fernow, Mirjam Hauser, Björn Huber: short version

7th GIM foresight study: The black swan COVID-19. The future after Corona

8th study FUTURE VALUES OF PEOPLE IN OUR COUNTRY, study director: Cordula Klaus, Dr. Christian Grünwald, Michael Astor, commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF),

9th Working Worlds 4.0 – 2018 Deloitte-Success-Factors-SMEs-Working-Worlds-2018.pdf


ZDF documentary. “Awakening in the workplace – changing values at work” by Saskia Heim

The authors

Oliver Grätsch
Michelle 550
Michelle Templin
Christian Grätsch
Matthias Beikert
Susanne Grätsch
Monika Bt 550x550
Monika Steininger
Kai Hübner
Philipp Andresen 500x550
Philipp Andresen
Anna Isabell Arendt
Dr. Claudia Schmidt
Inga Kühn
Kassandra Knebel
Claudia Lehmann
Komplettes Team

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