Xellia Pharmaceuticals is a speciality pharmaceutical company based in Denmark that develops anti-infective treatments against bacterial, fungal and antibiotic-resistant infections.  Xellia is owned by Novo A/S.

Carl-Åke Carlsson, CEO explains the reasons why Xellia re-shaped their organisational and culture and why they chose to work with Mark at Co-create.

The challenge

Over the recent period Xellia has grown rapidly in revenue terms, geographic coverage and number of people employed.  I felt that the time had come to uniquely state both internally and externally who exactly we were and what our purpose was.


We felt we needed a unique, compelling Vision, which our people could get behind.  A key challenge is that although we make life-saving drugs, our people did not feel as though they were making this incredible contribution.

Historically we never sold drugs to the end clinician.  Therefore the line of sight between people’s work and the impact on patient’s health was unclear.


In relation to our culture, we required consistency.  We had two challenges here:

Firstly, we wanted to preserve what was so unique about our culture.  This included valuing people as individuals, our entrepreneurial spirit and our ability to have fun.

Secondly, we wanted to further develop our ability to hit all our required milestones in order to reach our ambitious growth targets.

From the outset, Mark shared that most efforts such as these fail!  He asked for two guarantees, which the leadership team and I were happy to oblige:

1.  Senior level leadership.
It was not enough for the leaders to sponsor the change, they had to actively lead it.

  1. Leadership to Walk the talk. For the leadership team to take a critical look at their own performance against the eventual values and to hold each other to account against them.


The Process

We developed a tight-knit team to have the first go at developing our purpose and our values.  The team was made up of five members of Exco board and five high potential people from across the business.  It represented a diverse mix of people according to both geography and function.

Mark led us through a process to develop both the purpose and our values according to a number of clearly defined criteria.  This included:  ease of understanding, representing the best of who we are at present, and who we aspired to be.

He then worked with us to:

  • Design our leadership conferences to:
  • unveil the first draft of the purpose & values and open these up for further discussion
  • make them highly patient-centered.
  • design and roll-out our regional workshops to share the purpose and values in a meaningful way for people
  • Contribute to the branding
  • Personally interview and film our patients, advisors and employees discussing their connection to the purpose and to generate this sharing of information across the globe.


The Result

















The purpose is the why of our organization.  We now bring this to life in a number of ways:

  • We invite our patients to directly address with us their hopes, fears and concerns.
  • We display our purpose and goals – and the impact of our work – clearly at each of our global sites.
  • We refer to our mission constantly.



The values have now been embedded into all of our communication and HR processes.  They comprise an essential part of how we measure and reward performance.

The way that we can see they are beginning to have a real impact in the business is as follows:

  • We have a common language; we are holding each other to account against our values every day, internally and externally.
  • We have taken difficult decisions taken with people who were not living the values.


The values we selected have been so specific for capturing what we really required.

For example, “Zest” really speaks of how we try to make everyone feel as though how they belong and how we seek to celebrate success as soon as possible.

Similarly, “Being our Best” refers to seeking to understand each of our own unique strengths and everyone’s responsibility – not simply our leader’s – to bringing out the best in others.

What has worked well is having a small number of values, which speak our language and having a small number of behaviors against each value.  In this way, they are memorable and easy to use.

The people in our photos representing our values are our people!

The Rollout

We ran a phased communication campaign.

The first step was focusing on our purpose.  Thanking our people for what they do, sharing that they are real-life superheroes through saving and enhancing lives.
The second phased step focused on the how – our values and the underlying behaviors we apply in our every day lives.

The Experience

I would be happy to recommend Mark’s work to any company which is seeking to (re)define its purpose and approach.  He is makes connections quickly and is creative and engaging in his approach.






Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.