Next Culture Fitness Training: Kraków, March 5/6 !

I am totally open on pricing. Email olaf AT lewitz . net and tell me your price. How much value do you expect?

Impressions from the first CFT

Culture Hacking Berlin meetup group

Culture Fitness Training

Two experiential days of understanding, exploring and influencing organisational culture. An interactive workshop with lots of practical exercises and opportunities for conversation.

“I would not hesitate to recommend this workshop to any Scrum Master, manager (with some ambitions to remove impediments) and other change agents.”

Geir Amsjø, Scrum Trainer, after the first CFT

  • Do you want to start loving Mondays?
  • Do you want to create an environment where people are invited to flourish?
  • Do you want to create awareness of your organisation’s culture and improve it?

I dream of workplaces where people want to belong. Where we love to work. Where we want to give our best.

Such a positive culture is essential for continual improvement, resilience and agility. This workshop is suited for human beings of any role and education. The greater your influence on people in your organisation, the more effective you’ll be able to put your learning into practice.

In this workshop, you will learn to

  • Recover what your organisation may have lost in growth and what made you happy and successful
  • Increase the level of trust in your team to effectively communicate on eye-level
  • Embrace conflicts and ambiguity to leverage diversity
  • Increase personal freedom through awareness of options and choices
  • Facilitate conversations about culture, raise awareness and set the stage for great performance
  • Visualise and articulate the workplace you want, and
  • Define simple first steps towards hacking your work culture for great results.

There will be LEGO, and drawing, and play, and conversations.

Course Design

CFT is designed as an experiential learning environment. More practice than theory, more dialogue than monologue. First day focuses on awareness and understanding, second on influencing and changing.

Adapt this basic layout to the needs and wants of the group.

Timing is intended for rough guidance, for groups of 5-6 people.

Culture Fitness Training

Culture Fitness Training

(30 min)

Check In

Welcome everyone and give them a chance to be fully present. Reflect what’s going on in your body, mind and heart. Share as you like.

Format as you see fit. If in doubt, use Core Check-In.

(60 min)

Influence Maps

People reflect, visualize and share some of their key influences on how they think and feel about work.

Example questions to focus on:

What has made me successful? Where did I get the option to be authentic? Where did I bend into a role and why?

Let everyone share their story. Invite people to listen compassionately—don’t question or advise or judge. Invite to share where we feel resonance.

Adapted version of Temenos Influence Maps.

(45 min)


Create alignment on the culture we want. Increase trust and connection in the group through co-creation of an organisational persona. Raise awareness that all or most of what we want is already available in the system we have. Ratchet that sensation with a name.

KrisMap — Anastasia

KrisMap — Anastasia

KrisMap – an organisation’s persona.


Clean Slate

Create awareness of how your current work environment and culture doesn’t yet fit you, and how you don’t fit in. Sense and visualize expectations and assumptions, and share. Encourage listening and expression of resonance similar to influence maps.

Adapted version of Temenos Clean Slate.


Co-create Vision

KrisMap serves as an emotionally powerful vision. StrategicPlay using LEGO Seriousplay will enrich it with detail and make it multi-sensory and multi-dimensional.

Allow 15 min for each participant to build an individual model of their dream work environment. Offer an abundance of diverse LEGO bricks for inspiration. Then everyone explains their model.

Culture Vision

Culture Vision

Integrate the individual models into a shared model. Record the explanations on video if you plan to share it with other people in your company!



Make sense of what you’re dealing with when you want to work with culture. Give participants 3 min to write down as many decisions as possible on one sticky note each: from “how to open a door?” to “do I drink another cup of coffee?” to “what do I do when I’m sitting in an airplane and I’m told it’s going to crash?” Order them together from small to big (easy to hard, no need to be perfect here), sticking them around the border of a table.

Cynefin Exercise

Cynefin Exercise

Group them into four groups, marking the border between them, and re-ordering them if needed:

  • For decisions of the first group the right choice is obvious (“how to open a door”).
  • Decisions of the second group can be figured out in advance, yet need analysis or an expert.
  • Decisions of the third group can only be proven beneficial or not (not right or wrong) in hindsight.
  • The fourth group (the airplane question above) consists decisions where we can never know if what we did was good or not. (In this example, either we die or we don’t know if the we bracing was helpful.)

Use this data to explain the Cynefin model. More info on Cynefin:


Cultural Models

Share understanding (background, theory) on culture using models as you prefer. This doesn’t need to be one module,  spread information as you see fit. The models I use are

Edgar Schein

Culture as an iceberg, with three parts:

  • visible artifacts, actions, behaviours, above water,
  • espoused values beneath, and
  • basic shared assumptions at the bottom.

Useful and simple model in many conversation. Helps folks to understand why they don’t see what’s hitting their change initiatives in the back.

Source: Organizational Culture and Leadership

William E. Schneider

Four types of culture, depending on your organisation’s focus on

  • actuality vs. possibility
  • company vs. people
Schneider Culture Model drawn by Michael Sahota

Schneider Culture Model drawn by Michael Sahota

This model is helpful to make some sense of your environment and prevalent preferences, it’s also a simplifying categorisation. In the video on Cynefin above, Dave Snowden explains why categorisation is a limiting idea in a complex environment. Use at your own risk. Schneider’s book where this model is from is from the 90s, and most of it is not helpful anymore.

Specifically, I think modern organisations overcome the dichotomies that make up this model. People, system, actuality, and possibility are four independent axes rather then ends of two. We can have a “yes, and” culture that distributes control through collaboration, and cultivates competence. The model is helpful to show what kind of thinking we don’t need anymore.

Source: The Reengineering Alternative: A Plan for Making Your Current Culture Work

My Favourite: Cohen/Stewart

Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart explain human culture as a shared identity based on shared stories.

I recommend two of their books:

  • Figments of Reality: The Evolution of the Curious Mind
    “Figments of Reality is an immensely entertaining read that tests our ideas about evolution, and convincingly argues the case for the coevolution of mind and culture. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll not put it down until you’ve finished reading all of it.” —Amazon review
  • Science of Discworld II – The Globe (with Terry Pratchett)
    “This is the cue for Stewart and Cohen to develop their ideas of stories as a shaping power in the evolution of human intelligence. Whether they’re called spells, memes, creeds, theorems, artworks or lies, satisfying stories are Roundworld’s equivalent of Discworld magic. It’s just that it all happens in our heads: “headology” as top witch Granny Weatherwax puts it.” —David Langford


Real Options

Real Options is a mindset of choice. At face value, it’s a mental model for better decision making, on the next level, an influencing concept to create more choices in your context. On a third level, it helps you release your thinking and feeling from oppression and coercion.

Real Options are helpful to employ Forster’s Ethical Imperative: “Act always so as to increase the number of choices.”


Design Culture Hacks

Explain the difference between Culture Design (examples below) and Culture Hacking. Pick a problem that’s relevant to some people in the group. Create an empathy map and phrase a problem statement. Brainstorm hacks to improve or to inspire a conversation about the problem.

More Background, Influences, Reading Suggestions…

Michael Sahota has focused on organisational culture for longer than I did and has inspired a lot of my thinking. I’m grateful we’re on this journey together.

The original culture fitness training was co-created with Steve Holyer.

Jef Staes offers a free ebook: My Organisation is a Jungle. Inspiring.

Recommended book: Dan Mezick’s Culture Game

Why our goals are best achieved indirectly: Obliquity by John Kay

Designed Culture for great teams: McCarthy’s Core Protocols

Zappos is a prominent example of a company which is conscious of and deliberate about their culture. They publish an annual Culture Book. They’re also immensely successful. Upon the skeptical question in the training, “how do we know they’re successful BECAUSE of their culture?” Bernhard Bockelbrink replied, “that does not matter. If we can be like that and be successful, we should be like that.



  1. Gregor
    April 4, 2014

    My initial problem that I was trying to solve at that workshop was to get the engineering team at my company to adapt / accept our change to SCRUM completely. As I already knew from my master studium, everything about culture is not really an easy to grasp, check list ready thing, so the entire workshop came to what I would call moderated reflection. And reflect I did.

    Now, after the workshop, I think I know what to slowly change at my company in order for all our team to embrace the new experiment-friendly culture I’m looking to instill. I also learnt a lot about my own values in life, which means I’m going to change something in my life very dramatically, very soon. I got to meet some very bright people at the workshop, including working together with Olaf for the first time ever. And he’s as good a moderator for moderated reflection as possible can be.

    Thankful I got invited, because I’d never have known what I missed.

    • Olaf
      April 4, 2014

      Thank you, Gregor!

  2. Wiebke
    April 5, 2014

    I came to the workshop looking for ideas and inspiration for my daily work and private life. I very much enjoy finding new creative/crazy views on situations and trying out new tools to visualize these.

    Olaf was able to quickly create a relaxed and fun atmosphere in which all participants could reflect openly on their own situation and preferences.
    It was a very interesting group of people with different backgrounds, experiences and views on the world.

    Especially experiencing what happens when you do not only work with words, but rather use images and tangible symbols (build from Lego), is quite amazing and let’s you find out more about a situation, than if you just talked about it.

    I collected a lot of information & experience “gold nuggets”, which I can add to my treasure chest and which will help connecting more dots in the future. My Kindle is now fully charged with great recommendations from Olaf and other participants. 😉
    Next step: organize a Lego session within HERE 🙂

    Very much worthwhile, thanks, Olaf!

    • Olaf
      April 5, 2014

      Thank you, Wiebke!

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  4. Torsten
    May 7, 2014

    WOW! All the culture stuff on only two days. In a logical, straight sequence. I suppose, that’s XP on culture … 😉
    My intention was to learn more about that, what I assumed to be “culture”. And I got more: new experiences, integration and expansion of already known stuff and … and … and … I am deeply impressed! Thank you very much, Olaf!
    And …how can I get more? How about bottling it? In a book …?

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  5. Stuart
    May 8, 2014

    Great course. Thanks Olaf. I liked the blend of theoretical background and practical learning. I found the course deepened my thinking behind cultures and customs and also gave me some practical tools that I know I´ll put into use with teams and organisations. I was open minded going into the 2 day course and was very happy with what the course gave me and the resources I can now reference to deepen my understanding. A big plus for me was that the 2 days were fun and very interactive. So thanks again Olaf….

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  7. Dee
    September 9, 2014

    I’m very interested in organisational culture and especially love helping to make my own work and social environments nice, open, fun places to be.

    I found the conversations with Olaf and the other participants really eye-opening and fulfilling, and I think the most useful take-away from the course was the tangible tools and activities that I can bring back to my colleagues and friends! We are actually going to do a Kris Map together in my office this week! Hopefully we will expose each other’s ideas and dreams, and highlight any ways that our ideal culture is different from what we have today.

    Really useful and fun training. Thanks Olaf 🙂

  8. Jella
    September 16, 2014

    I was convinced about the greatness of Olaf’s Culture Fitness Training before it even began – once you meet him you cannot not trust him 🙂
    The 2 day workshop was full of insights and very rewarding – Olaf managed to squeeze in everything you might wish for:
    * lots of practical excercises – it’s valuable to actually experience the things and not only talk about it
    * lots of room to discuss our personal experiences (inviting people from futurice was a very smart move)
    * introducing and discussing culture theories as well as further reading advice
    * enough room to network and get to know other participants

    Thank you, Merci, Gracias, Grazie, Danke sehr

    • Olaf
      September 16, 2014

      Thank you, Dee and Jella 🙂

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  11. Konstantin Zagaynov
    June 22, 2015

    I appreciate the work that Olaf is doing very much. The secret sauce for the success of any team work is to uncover intrinsic motivations of the team members. Quite often this is difficult because people in the team behave different than what they are in reality. Exercises led by Olaf go down to the bone of what personalities of people in the team actually are. As the result, participants suddenly are eager to talk and uncover unbelievable things that are usually kept hidden. When people become Personalities, such team can do miracles.


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