Abstract Aims and objectives: The overall aim of this mini project was to collaboratively engage in a learning activity that would provide evidence about the workplace culture to be used to inform other aspects of practice development work. The objectives were: to enhance observation skills; contribute to a team development activity; share and develop critical questions for use with local practice development action planning and build up active commitment to practice development work within the group. Design: A small pilot project embedded within a larger complex emancipatory practice development programme. Method: An unstructured observation method was used and followed up with facilitated critical reflection and dialogue. Results: The overall theme was Inconsistency and Contradictions. Seven contradictory sub-themes were found: light and dark; cleanliness and clutter; quiet and noise; calmness and busyness; conversation and chatter; communal and bedside; respect and disrespect. Conclusions: This pilot project shows that multi-dimensional small scale outcomes can be identified very early on in practice development. Testing and developing a practice development method and processes for wider scale use in an organisation is an important feature of micro level practice development within healthcare organisations. Implications for practice: A group of practitioners can learn to carry out and collate findings from observations within their own workplace. Becoming critically aware of context and culture is a process and it needs to be facilitated to ensure that learning progresses to collaborative action. Outcomes can be maximised by building in facilitation to promote reflection and dialogue. An observation method on workplace culture can form part of a diagnostic and evaluation portfolio at practice level which can contribute to larger scale evaluation, quality and clinical governance agendas.