Denison Performance Culture Diagnostics

Ultimately all business is about performance. Whether it’s quality, efficiency, community outcomes, sales, or safety – all leaders are driven by improving performance. We believe culture and leadership should have that same sharp focus. We help organisations align culture and leadership to strategy by using the Denison Organisational Culture Survey and Leadership Development tools.  Anchored in 25 years of hard nosed business and scientific research; the Denison tools truly connect culture and leadership to the bottom line.

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.

Culture Survey

The Denison Organisational Culture Survey (DOCS) is one of the few truly performance based culture diagnostics. Used by more than 5,000 companies worldwide and based on well over 25 years of research, Denison is used by companies who are serious about connecting culture and leadership to business strategy. Some of the companies who choose Denison include NASA, Levi Strauss, IBM, IKEA, Shell and Target.

The DOCS is designed to assess an organisation’s strengths and weaknesses as they apply to organisational performance. The survey has 60 items that measure specific aspects of an organisation’s culture known to key business metrics including; Quality, Sales, Customer Satisfaction, Profitability and Employee Engagement.

The Denison framework and related diagnostic provides a framework that helps leaders understand how organisations work. It is built on a model of strategy execution; as opposed to other tools in the market that are overly humanistic and psychologically based which can minimise culture to the realms of ‘soft and fluffy’ instead of ‘strategic enabler’. In doing so the Denison helps leaders easily connect the people story with the business agenda; fundamental to driving real, leader led change. The model and diagnostic is easily tailored to suit particular needs and language of your business.


Denison compares your organization’s raw survey data to our global database of over 1,000 organizations (from multiple industries, regions and sectors) and tabulate a graphical profile that conveys the results in the form of percentile scores. This method enables you to benchmark your culture scores against other higher and lower-performing organizations worldwide.

Key to our approach is making culture a business issue. This requires that we engage leaders early on in the direct impact it has on performance.

Some key methodology steps include:

  • Culture Blueprinting: An Initial strategic dialogue with leaders, using Denison as a anchor point is critical to clarify; ‘What does our culture need to look like to deliver our strategy?’
  • Current state assessment: Administer the Denison culture diagnostic to assess current state and to guide prioritisation of critical work needed to close the gap
  • Action planning: The survey simply provides data. Creating real change requires action. Once the data is in we work closely with your executive team and organisation more broadly to  begin planning and implementing change for change.
  • Monitoring progress: We usually administer a shorter ‘pulse check’ version of the survey 6-12 months after the initial survey to monitor progress in critical areas to support recalibration and recommitment.

Leadership 360

The Denison Leadership Development 360 measures leadership performance based on a set of 12 leadership behaviours linked to high performing business cultures. Based on the Denison Model, this 360 degree assessment benchmarks an individual’s leadership and management skills to those of leaders in other organisations.

Importantly, the Denison Leadership Development 360 is a developmental tool. By providing data-based feedback, it allows leaders to identify gaps in perceived strengths, weaknesses and capabilities.

This 96-item survey  takes 20 – 25 minutes to complete and leverages feedback from a number of different perspectives, including managers, peers, direct reports and others. The survey is user-friendly and administered online through a system that allows leaders to personally manage the process.

Denison uses normative scoring to present survey results in percentile scores, drawing on a global database of nearly 14,000 leaders (from a wide variety of industries, job functions, management levels and tenures) .

The standard summary report, includes:

  • Circumplex reports comparing self-ratings to the ‘Combined Other’ group of manager, peers, direct reports and others
  • Line item data showing individual scores on each question, and a Line Item report summarising the 10 highest and lowest scoring items
  • A gap report outlining strengths, weaknesses, and under- and over-estimated capabilities
  • A comments report

The Leadership Potential Report

Developed in partnership by Denison Consulting and Hogan Assessment Systems, the Denison Leadership Potential Report provides a statistically valid prediction of leadership potential. This is accomplished by aligning an individual’s inherent leader attributes—as measured by Hogan assessment tools—to the twelve leadership competencies defined by the Denison Leadership Development Model.

The Denison Leadership Potential Report is generated from a participant’s responses to three Hogan self-assessment instruments:

  • Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI)
  • Hogan Development Survey (HDS)
  • Motives, Values, Preferences (MVPI)

The assessment tools take approximately 45minutes  to complete and measure different leader attributes, including: the working environment a leader strives to create; the personality characteristics a leader possesses to create that environment; and the performance risks or obstacles that can hinder the leader from achieving those aspirations. Responses to these assessments indicate the participant’s ingrained personal characteristics and motives, which inform the manner in which he/she will behave in the workplace and as a manager.

The Denison Leadership Potential Report depicts an individual’s potential to exhibit each of the twelve Denison leadership competencies based on his/her personality and values. Competencies are scored as either excellent, high, moderate or low potential and are grouped into the four traits of the Denison Model.

In addition to this overall snapshot of leader potential, the DLPR also provides a deeper dive into each of the twelve competency scores allowing participants to understand why they received their score, and to identify targeted areas for development.

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