Organizational Assessment: Questions to Define Culture

Defining the Core Culture of your organization is the first step in bringing needed change to your organization. Do you know your organization’s vital Purpose, its distinctive and enduring Philosophy and its strategic Priorities? Do you know the universal Priorities the organization must focus on and pay attention to in order to build an engaged workforce? Have all employees participated in a process to define the organization’s culture? If not, this is the time to ask employees key questions to uncover the essence of your organization’s culture–the Core Culture.

When conducting an organizational culture assessment to define the Core Culture of your company, use these questions as a guide. These questions can be used when conducting interviews, constructing open-​​ended surveys or conducting focus groups. During interviews and focus groups, be sure to ask follow-​​up questions to enrich the information you collect. Encourage examples and stories.

Although the questions are designed to reveal particular attributes of the Core Culture, you will find that the responses are not always clear-​​cut. Often people’s responses do not directly answer the question. Be open to what the information you collect actually reveals. For example, a Philosophy question might yield a Priority. You must understand the differences between a Philosophy and a Priority so that you classify the responses in the most appropriate attribute category. Review the explanation of the Five Ps to ensure you understand these concepts. Also, take a few moments to understand the meanings of Purpose, Philosophy, and strategic and universal Priorities.

Some of the questions in this assessment sound repetitive. Often, using a slightly different word or phrase in a question will yield either confirming or new, insightful responses.

Use the workbook Building a Culture of Distinction: Facilitator Guide for Defining Organizational Culture and Managing Change for a detailed explanation of the process for conducting an organizational culture assessment.

Sample Assessment Questions to Define Core Culture–the Essence of your Organizational Culture

Introductory Question

1. What words would you use to describe this organization? Give examples of each word.

2. What are you most proud of at this organization?

Purpose Questions

3. What is the purpose of this organization?

4. Why is the work you do important? (Ask this question up to five times in an interview.)

5. How are you making a difference to society through your work?

6. What is your contribution to society through your work?

Philosophy Questions

7. What special attribute does the founder/​leader possess that has influenced the character of the organization? Explain.

8. Describe the ideals that drove the founding of this organization.

9. What value is fundamental and distinctive to this organization since its founding? Give examples.

10. What makes this organization feel different or unique from our competitors?

11. Describe the personality or character of this organization.

12. What is central to who we are as an organization that should never change?

Strategic Priorities Questions

(These questions can also uncover Universal Priorities.)

13. What should the organization focus on and pay attention to?

14. To effectively achieve our strategy, what principles should guide how we work? Explain.

15. What key values, if followed, would help this organization compete and thrive?

Universal Priorities Questions

These questions are closed-​​ended. The questions link to the six drivers of employee engagement: fit, trust, caring, communication, achievement, and autonomy. Participants rate to what extent they agree or disagree with each of these statements.


1. The Purpose of this organization is meaningful to me.

2. The values of this organization are consistent with my values.

3. I understand how my work contributes to the organization’s performance.

4. I am doing the right work for me.


5. I trust senior leaders.

6. I trust my supervisor/​manager.

7. I am treated with fairness and respect in this organization.

8. Senior leaders are honest.

9. My supervisor/​manager is honest.

10. We have competent senior leaders.

11. I am proud of this organization.


12. I feel valued and appreciated.

13. This organization feels like family.

14. My supervisor/​manager cares about me as a person.

15. I have friends at work.

16. There is good cooperation among my co-​​workers.

17. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.


18. I know what is expected of me at work.

19. At work, my opinions seem to count.

20. I am informed on the strategy and goals of this organization.

21. Information is freely shared.

22. My supervisor/​manager takes the time to listen to my concerns.


23. Someone at work encourages my development.

24. My supervisor/​manager talks to me about my progress.

25. I get feedback on my performance.

26. I have the opportunity at work to learn and grow.

27. I receive recognition or praise for doing good work.

28. I have challenging work.

29. My work gives me a feeling of personal accomplishment.


30. I am given substantial responsibility.

31. I have the freedom to control how I get my work done.

32. I am involved in decision-​​making that impacts me.

33. I feel like an owner.

Responses to the Universal Priorities questions reveal opportunities to improve employee engagement. Those areas to focus on should be included in the Priorities of the organization’s Core Culture.

Learn more about conducting the assessment process here