About the Model




The Denison model of organizational culture highlights four key traits (Mission, Consistency, Involvement, Adaptability) that an organization should master in order to be effective. Each trait breaks down into three more specific indices for a total of 12 indices. Each of the four traits is represented by a color on the circumplex model. This color coding helps to group the related constructs into the four traits and also helps provide visual and intuitive feedback in the reports.

Denison’s research has demonstrated that effective organizations have high culture scores in all four traits. Thus, effective organizations are likely to have cultures that are adaptive, yet highly consistent and predictable, and that foster high involvement, but do so within the context of a shared sense of mission.



Organizations with strengths in two of the traits often share certain orientations and outcomes.


External Focus (Adaptability + Mission): An organization with a strong external focus is focused on adapting and changing in response to the external environment. It has a constant eye on the marketplace and a strong sense of where it is headed. A strong external focus typically impacts revenue, sales growth, and market share.


Internal Focus (Involvement + Consistency): An organization with a strong internal focus is focused on the dynamics of the internal integration of systems, structures, and processes. It values its people and prides itself on the quality of its products or services. A strong internal focus has been linked to higher levels of quality, fewer defects and less rework, good resource utilization, and high employee satisfaction.


Flexibility (Adaptability + Involvement): A flexible organization has the capability to change in response to the environment. Its focus is on the marketplace and its people. A flexible organization is typically linked to higher levels of product and service innovation, creativity, and a fast response to the changing needs of customers and employees.


Stability (Mission + Consistency): A stable organization has the capacity to remain focused and predictable over time. A stable organization is typically linked to high return on assets, investments and sales, as well as strong business operations.

Interpreting Survey Results

When an organization takes the DOCS, the individual results are aggregated and reported back in a circumplex report. The circumplex report shows a numerical percentile score for each of the 12 indices. The percentile score is calculated based on our global normative database.

In this example:

•The sample organization received a percentile score of 58 in the Vision index of the Mission trait. This means that 58% of the organizations in the normative database scored lower than this organization.
•The Vision score has three segments of color, indicating that the percentile result falls into the third quartile. The Goals and Objectives index has two segments of color, because the 46th percentile falls into the second quartile.


Normative Database and Percentiles
Denison Consulting generates your organization’s results by comparing them to those of over 1000 other organizations in our global normative database. The percentile scores indicate how well your organization ranks in comparison to the other organizations in the database. For example, if your organization has a percentile score of 94 in the Customer Focus index, that means that you scored higher than 94 percent of the organizations in the database — making the results easy to understand and interpret.
Using percentiles helps give meaning to the results and helps organizations to answer the question: “Is that good?” For example, a raw mean score of 2.5 on an index does not convey much information. However, if that mean translates to a percentile of 34, it tells the organization that this is a vulnerable area that deserves attention. Percentiles provide meaning and context to the results.
Organizations represented in the normative database come from a wide variety of industries and geographical locations. Through our ongoing research, we have found that different industries, from finance to pharmaceuticals, and even different countries have very similar results to the global database.

Customization and Reporting
The Denison Organizational Culture Survey can be customized to meet your organization’s specific needs. Additional questions can be added in the form of scaled questions, open-ended questions or drop-down questions. The most common customization is adding drop-down demographic questions which we can use to create report segments for your organization. Based on your demographic variables, Denison can create reports broken out for groups such as functional areas, locations, management levels and more. A number of additional reports are available and custom reports can be created to meet your organization’s specific needs. Our team of Account Managers, Ph.D.-level Researchers and Consultants can help you create a survey that will give you the information you need to help your organization perform to its fullest.