Diagnosing Organizational Cultures:
Validating a Model and Method
International Institute for Management Development
Chemin de Bellerive 23
Lausanne Switzerland 1001
225 South Sixth St. Suite 400
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Hankamer School of Business
P.O. Box 98006
Waco, TX 76798
Hee Jae Cho
Samsung Economic Research Unit
Hanil Building 7-8F, 191
Yongsan-Ku, Seoul, Korea
The authors wish to thank the International Institute for Management Development and the
University of Michigan Business School for the support that they have provided for this research.
This draft paper should not be quoted or cited without author’s permission. All rights reserved.
This paper introduces a model of organizational culture developed from a stream of
research that has focused on organizational culture and organizational effectiveness (Denison,
1984; 1990; 1996; 2000, Denison & Mishra, 1995; Denison & Neale, 1996, Fey & Denison,
2003). The paper presents a statistical validation of the sixty-item, twelve-index organizational
culture survey developed to measure the key constructs in the model, using responses from
35,474 individuals in 160 organizations. The model is based on four cultural traits of
organizations: involvement, consistency, adaptability, and mission. Each of these four traits is
measured by three five-item indexes.
Confirmatory factor analysis models show good support for the theoretical structure
implied by the framework. Within group agreement indicators show a high degree of
homogeneity within organization. Finally, a number of significant correlations between culture
ratings and measures of organizational effectiveness demonstrate a substantial link between
culture and organizations' performance. The paper concludes with a discussion of the potential
application of the model and method as an approach for diagnosing organizational cultures.
Keywords: Organizational Culture
Despite the dominant trend toward qualitative research in the literature, a number of
approaches to the comparative measurement of organizational culture have been developed.
These examples include Cooke and Rousseau’s (1989) approach based upon behavioral norms,
O’Reilly, Chatman, and Caldwell’s (1991) method for examining person-organization fit, and
Hofstede, Neuijen, Ohayv, and Sanders’ (1990) extension of Hofstede’s research on national
cultures to a study of organizations. Each of these approaches developed from a specific
research agenda and presents a method for studying organizational cultures by measuring values
and behavioral norms. Ashkanasy, Broadfoot, and Falkus (2000) have provided an extensive
review of survey measures of organizational culture.
This paper presents an approach to measuring organizational culture that has been
developed from a stream of research on culture and effectiveness (Denison, 1984; 1990; 1996;
2000, Denison & Mishra, 1995; Denison & Neale, 1996; Fey & Denison, 2003, Denison,
Haaland, & Goelzer, 2004; Denison, Leif & Ward, 2004). This approach has focused directly on
those aspects of organizational cultures that appear to influence organizational effectiveness,
concentrating on four key traits: involvement, consistency, adaptability, and mission. The focus
on these four traits has also been supported by other researchers interested in organizational
culture and effectiveness (Kotter & Heskett, 1992; Gordon & DiTomaso, 1992; Sorenson, 2002)
This paper presents a validation of the twelve indexes developed to measure these four
traits and the underlying theoretical model. The paper begins by discussing three approaches to
measuring organizational cultures that have been presented in the literature. This first section is
followed by an overview of the organizational culture model examined in this paper, including a
discussion of the conceptual framework and definitions of the traits and measures. The next part
of the paper discusses the methods, the sample, and the data analysis plan. The fourth section of
the paper summarizes the results of the analyses and discusses their implications for the model.
The final section discusses the use of this approach for diagnosing organizational cultures.
The Comparative Measurement of Organizational Cultures
Organizational culture researchers have long debated whether cultures can be compared
and measured (Denison, 1996; Hatch, 1993; Hofstede, Neuijen, Ohayv, and Sanders, 1990;
Martin, 1992; Schein, 1992). Some researchers have concluded that the “deeper” levels of
culture such as symbolic meaning, semiotics, and underlying beliefs and assumptions are not
subject to comparative analysis and are best understood through clinical or ethnographic methods
(Schein, 1992; Van Maanen, 1988). Whereas other culture researchers, while acknowledging the
limitations of comparative research for understanding the deeper levels of culture, have persisted
in the development of systematic approaches to comparative measurement. Interestingly
enough, nearly all of these approaches have developed comparative measurements at the level of
values and behavioral norms.
For example, one of the first approaches to be developed (Cooke & Lafferty, 1989;
Cooke & Rousseau, 1988) created a published instrument, the Organizational Culture Inventory,
which was based on perceptions and expectations regarding behavioral norms. This approach
identified twelve cultural styles in three categories: constructive styles, passive/defensive styles,
and aggressive/defensive styles. A second approach to the comparative measurement of
organizational culture has grown from the work of Hofstede (1980) on national differences in
work practices. Working from the set of items and dimensions developed in cross-national
research, Hofstede, Bond, and Luk (1993) and Hofstede, Neuijen, Ohayv, and Sanders (1990)
have developed a set of six dimensions of organizational culture from a study of 20 Dutch and
Danish firms. Their dimensions included process vs. results orientation, employee vs. job
orientation, parochial vs. professional orientation, open system vs. closed system, loose vs. tight,
and normative vs. pragmatic.
Comparative measures of organizational culture have also been developed by researchers
interested in the socialization and selection of new employees (Chatman, 1991; O’Reilly,
Chatman, & Caldwell, 1991). This line of research identified eight dimensions of culture
(innovation, attention to detail, outcome orientation, aggressiveness, supportiveness, emphasis on
rewards, team orientation, and decisiveness) that were used to assess person-organization fit in a
public accounting firm. This method was used to predict the level of satisfaction of new
employees and the likelihood that they would leave the firm.
Each of these approaches grew out of a specific research agenda and defined the relevant
dimensions of culture in a way that served that research agenda. Each of them also made
important contributions to their own line of research and helped to shape the research that
followed. Ashkanasy, Broadfoot, and Falkus (2000) have presented an extensive review of
eighteen survey measures of organizational culture that shows a wide range of approaches. The
model and method introduced in this paper followed a similar process by focusing specifically on
the issue of organizational culture and organizational effectiveness and developing an approach
to understanding organizational culture that helped to explain differences in the performance and
effectiveness of organizations (Sparrow, 2001).
Overview of the Organizational Culture Model
The organizational culture model that is the focus of this paper is based on four cultural
traits that have been shown in the literature to have an influence on organizational performance:
involvement, consistency, adaptability, and mission (Denison, 1990; Denison & Mishra, 1995;
Gordon & DiTomaso, 1992; Kotter & Heskett, 1992; Sorenson, 2002). Each of these traits is
measured with three component indexes, and each of those indexes is measured with five survey
items. This section of the paper discusses each of those four traits and provides an overview of
the model and definitions of the key concepts and indexes. A complete listing of the items is
included in the Appendix. A graphic version of the model is presented in Figure 1.
[insert Figure 1 about here]
Involvement. The research literature has shown that effective organizations empower
and engage their people, build their organization around teams, and develop human capability at
all levels (Block, 1991; Katzenbach & Smith, 1993; Lawler, 1986; Spreitzer, 1995; 1996;
Buckingham & Coffman, 1999). Organizational members are committed to their work, and feel
a strong sense of ownership. People at all levels feel that they have at least some input into
decisions that will affect their work and feel that their work is directly connected to the goals of
the organization. This allows high involvement organizations to rely on informal, voluntary and
implicit control systems, rather than formal, explicit, bureaucratic control systems. In the model,
this trait is measured with three indexes:
Empowerment. Individuals have the authority, initiative, and ability to manage their
own work. This creates a sense of ownership and responsibility toward the organization.
Team Orientation. Value is placed on working cooperatively toward common goals for
which all employees feel mutually accountable. The organization relies on team effort to
get work done.
Capability Development. The organization continually invests in the development of
employee’s skills in order to stay competitive and meet on-going business needs.
Consistency. The literature has also shown that organizations are effective when they
are consistent and well integrated (Saffold, 1988). Behavior is rooted in a set of core values,
leaders and followers are skilled at reaching agreement and incorporating diverse points of view,
and the organization’s activities are well coordinated and integrated (Gordon & DiTomaso,
1992; Martin, 1992; Schein, 1992; Treacy & Wiersma, 1995; Lencioni, 2002). Consistent
organizations develop a mindset and create organizational systems that build an internal system
of governance based on consensual support. These implicit control systems can be a more
effective means of achieving coordination and integration than external-control systems that rely
on explicit rules and regulations. These organizations have highly committed employees, a
distinct method of doing business, a tendency to promote from within, and a clear set of “do's”
and “don'ts.” This type of consistency is a powerful source of stability and internal integration.
In the model, this trait is measured with three indexes:
Core Values. Members of the organization share a set of values which create a sense of
identity and a clear set of expectations.
Agreement. Members of the organization are able to reach agreement on critical issues.
This includes both the underlying level of agreement and the ability to reconcile
differences when they occur.
Coordination and Integration. Different functions and units of the organization are
able to work together well to achieve common goals. Organizational boundaries do not
interfere with getting work done.
Adaptability. Despite some of the natural advantages of well-integrated organizations,
they can also be the least adaptive and the most difficult to change. Internal integration and
external adaptation can be at odds (Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967). Adaptable organizations
translate the demands of the organizational environment into action. They take risks, and learn
from their mistakes, and have capability and experience at creating change (Katz & Kahn, 1978;
Kotter, 1996; Senge, 1990). They are continuously improving the organization’s ability to
provide value for its customers by creating a system of norms and beliefs that support the
organization's capacity to receive, interpret, and translate signals from its environment into
internal systems that increase the organizations chances for survival and growth. Organizations
that are strong in adaptability usually experience sales growth and increased market share
(Denison & Mishra, 1995). In the model, this trait is measured with three indexes:
Creating Change. The organization is able to create adaptive ways to meet changing
needs. It is able to read the business environment, react quickly to current trends, and
anticipate future changes.
Customer Focus. The organization understands and reacts to their customers and
anticipates their future needs. It reflects the degree to which the organization is driven by
a concern to satisfy their customers.
Organizational Learning. The organization receives, translates, and interprets signals
from the environment into opportunities for encouraging innovation, gaining knowledge,
and developing capabilities.
Mission. Successful organizations also have a clear sense of purpose and direction that
defines organizational goals and strategic objectives and expresses a vision of what the
organization will look like in the future (Hamel & Prahalad, 1994; Mintzberg, 1989; Selznick,
1957). A mission provides purpose and meaning by defining a social role and external goals for
the organization. It provides a clear direction and goals that serve to define an appropriate
course of action for the organization and its members. A sense of mission allows an organization
to shape current behavior by envisioning a desired future state. Being able to internalize and
identify with an organization's mission contributes to both short and long-term commitment to
the organization. In the model, this trait is measured by three indexes:
Strategic Direction and Intent. Clear strategic intentions convey the organization’s
purpose and make it clear how everyone can contribute and “make their mark” on the
Goals and Objectives. A clear set of goals and objectives can be linked to the mission,
vision, and strategy, and provide everyone with a clear direction in their work.
Vision. The organization has a shared view of a desired future state. It embodies core
values and captures the hearts and minds of the organization’s people, while providing
guidance and direction.
Like many contemporary models of leadership and organizational effectiveness, this
model has focused on a set of tensions or contradictions (Denison, Hooijberg, & Quinn, 1996;
Quinn & Cameron, 1988). For example, the trade-off between stability and flexibility and the
trade-off between internal and external focus are the basic dimensions underlying the framework.
In addition, the diagonal tensions in the model are also important to understand. Internal
consistency and external adaptability represent a well-known tension in organizational theory
(Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967), while mission and involvement point to the inevitable tensions
between top-down direction and bottom-up influence.
At the center of this model in the graph in Figure 1 is underlying beliefs and assumptions.
This addition to the model is in recognition of the fact that the “deeper” levels of organizational
culture (Schein, 1992) are difficult to measure using comparative methods. Nonetheless, they
provide the foundation from which behavior and action spring. Beliefs and assumptions about
the organization and its people, the customer, the marketplace and the industry, and the basic
value propositions of the firm create a tightly knit logic that holds the organization together.
Values and behavioral norms are linked to these underlying assumptions, but it is far more
difficult to make comparative generalizations about the underlying assumptions than it is to
make generalizations about organizational cultures at the level of values and behavior.
None of the four cultural traits are unique to the model presented in this paper. All of the
concepts were developed through a series of qualitative and quantitative studies focusing on the
cultural traits of organizations that appear to influence their performance and effectiveness. This
set of concepts is also well represented in the broader literature on organizational theory and
organizational behavior. The organizational culture model serves to integrate these concepts,
develop a set of valid measures, and then apply them as a basis for a diagnostic process.
This section of the paper describes the methods used in this study. The statistical
validation of the culture model began with a large and diverse sample of 35,474 individuals from
160 different organizations. Responses of these individuals to sixty survey items on five-point
Likert scales were used to test the relationships between the items and the indexes and to test the
fit between the data and the underlying theoretical model. This section gives an overview of the
sample and the analysis strategy.
The data analysed in this study were selected from a larger archive of over 300
organizations that had voluntarily completed the organizational culture survey between 1997 and
2001. The larger archive consisted of data from both public and private sector organizations.
The companies ranged from large Fortune 100 companies, to schools and hospitals, to small
private companies. The companies were in various industries, including manufacturing, services,
high technology firms, public sector firms, and utilities. The sample used for the validity
analysis presented in this paper consisted of the subset of organizations in the archive (n=160)
that were from private sector companies and had more than twenty-five respondents from the
organization. Most companies in this sample (74%) were headquartered in North America but
Europe, Asia, and the Middle East were also represented in the data set. On average, the 160
organizations employed nearly 60,000 employees and generated almost two billion U.S. dollars
in revenue. Table 1 provides an overview of the organizations included in the analysis by
location, industry, size, and profits.
[insert Table 1 about here]
The first set of analyses was conducted at the individual respondent level, including a
total of 35,474 individuals from the 160 organizations. Intra-organizational response rates within
this set of companies ranged from 48% to 100%. The specific samples drawn from each of these
organizations were largely determined by the organizations themselves. Some organizations
surveyed all members, while others surveyed specific divisions, locations, levels of the
organization, or teams. Table 2 presents a description of this broad and diverse set of
respondents by age, gender, level of education, and by organizational level and function.1
[insert Table 2 about here]
Respondents completed the sixty items measuring the twelve indexes and the four
underlying traits in either paper or electronic form. Responses to all items were measured on a
5-point Likert scale that was ranged from 1 (“strongly disagree”) to 5 (“strongly agree”). Eight
items were phrased negatively and answers were reversed in the analysis. Surveys with missing
data on any of the sixty core items were excluded from this analysis. A complete listing of all
sixty items by index and trait is included in the Appendix.
Respondents also rated the organization on six dimensions of performance relative to
similar companies. Past researchers have demonstrated that subjective measures of
organizational effectiveness can be useful proxies for objective sales or profitability data (e.g.,
Baer & Frese, 2003; Guthrie, 2001; Wall et al., 2004). Organizational effectiveness was
measured using the following dimensions: sales/revenue growth, market share,
1 The “no response” categories in Table 2 includes respondents from those organizations that opted to use their own
set of demographic questions, rather than the standard set.
profitability/ROA, quality of goods and services, new product development, and employee
satisfaction. These were rated on a 5-point Likert scale anchored from “low performer” to “high
The analysis for this validation had three phases. Phase One involved examining the
psychometric properties of the culture assessment, namely its reliability and validity with respect
to the underlying theoretical structure. This phase began by focusing on the relationship between
the items and the indexes and examined whether each of the twelve indexes had an acceptable
level of internal consistency. Then, confirmatory factor analysis was conducted using the 60
culture survey items to examine the pattern of relationships between the observed variables and
latent traits that make up the hierarchical structure of the model and determine the extent to
which the parameters implied by the model reproduced the obtained covariance matrix.
Phase Two of the analysis considered the homogeneity of the respondents’ ratings in each
of the 160 organizations. These results were required as support the existence of an
organizational level “culture” and to justify aggregating ratings to the organizational level for
further analysis (Dansereau & Alutto, 1990; Klein et al., 2000). Finally, Phase Three examined
relationships between the culture indexes and traits and several measures of organizational
effectiveness to consider evidence of the criterion-related validity of the culture assessment.
Reliability and Validity: Fit with the Theoretical Model
Table 3 presents the results for the first step in the analysis. Included in this table are the
means, standard deviations, internal consistency estimates, and item-total correlations for the
culture items and indexes examined used in this study.
[insert Table 3 about here]
As shown in Table 3, coefficient alphas for the twelve indexes ranged from .70 to .85
indicating an acceptable level of internal consistency for all indexes (Nunnally 1978). Item-total
correlations exceeded .50 for over two-thirds of the 60 items in the survey. One item, “problems
often arise because we do not have the skills necessary to do the job,” shows an unusually low
item-to-total correlation of .23, Nonetheless, this negatively-worded item from the capability
development index was still retained in the rest of the analysis because a) the alpha coefficient
for the index itself still reaches an acceptable level of .70, b) the content validity of the item fits
well in the index. Researchers using this scale in the future, however, may wish to exclude this
Table 4 presents the correlations between indexes. Between-index correlations ranged
from .45 to .74 (average r=.59), indicating moderate to strong relationships between the various
aspects of culture.
[insert Table 4 about here]
Next a second-order confirmatory factor analysis was conducted using the 60 culture
survey items as observed variables, the 12 indexes as first-order factors, and the 4 traits as
second-order factors. Results from this analysis are described first in terms of the pattern of
factor loadings and inter-trait correlations, and then by the indicators of fit for the model.
Table 5 displays factor loadings of each of the 60 items on their respective factors. As
the table indicates, these loadings were generally in the .60 to .75 range, indicating considerable
shared variance within those items intended to measure the same underlying concepts. Tables 6
and 7 present loadings and between-factor correlations at the higher levels of the model. These
values range from the low .70s to the mid-.90s, indicating overlap in the variance explained by
first-order factors and strong relationships between second-order factors.
[insert Table 5 about here]
[insert Table 6 about here]
[insert Table 7 about here]
The fit of this model was evaluated using several fit indices, including the root-mean-
square error of approximation (RMSEA; Hu & Bentler, 1998) goodness-of-fit index (GFI;
Jöreskog & Sörbom, 1989), adjusted goodness-of-fit index (AGFI; Jöreskog & Sörbom, 1996),
and comparative fit index (CFI; Bentler, 1990). The RMSEA is recognized as the most sensitive
index to models with misspecified factor loadings (Hu & Bentler, 1998) and is indicative of close
fit at values lower than .05 (Browne & Cudeck 1993; Hu & Bentler, 1998; MacCallum, Browne,
& Sugawara, 1996). The GFI is analogous to a squared multiple correlation from a multiple
regression analysis, assessing the shared variance between the covariance matrix implied by the
specified model and the observed covariance matrix. The GFI ranges from 0 to 1 with higher
values indicating better fit and values of at least .90 generally considered to be suitable. Bentler
(1992) recommended the CFI as the incremental index of choice, as it takes sample size into
account when comparing the hypothesized model with the independence model while avoiding
problems found with some of the other available incremental indices. A CFI of .90 or greater is
typically considered acceptable (Bentler & Bonett 1980; Hu & Bentler 1998). Since this study
has an unusually large sample size of 30,808, it seems particularly encouraging that the CFI
index indicates a good fit.
The chi-square and fit indices for this model are shown in Table 8. In general, fit indices
indicate close fit for the specified model, with RMSEA (.048) and CFI (.98) values exceeding
common guidelines for good fit and GFI (.88) and AGFI (.87) values closely approaching them.
These results suggest that the specified model closely approximates the observed pattern of
relationships between the items making up the culture assessment.
[insert Table 8 about here]
Table 8 also shows the fit statistics for a first-order factor culture model. In order to
determine whether the inclusion of the intermediate first-order factors was an important part of
the culture framework’s structure, the second-order model was compared to a simpler model that
omitted the 12 first-order factors. The second-order model that included the 12 intermediary
factors offered superior fit as demonstrated by a lower RMSEA (.048 versus .054), higher values
for the goodness-of-fit and adjusted-goodness-of-fit indices (.88 and .87 for the second-order
model versus .85 and .84 for the first-order model), and a significantly lower chi-square value,
2(12)=34,561.15, p<.001. These results indicate that the second-order factorial model yields a
significantly better reproduction of the observed covariance matrix, supporting the
conceptualization of a second-order factorial model of organizational culture.
Testing for Homogeneity
Before aggregating individual ratings of culture into an organizational-level variable, it is
first necessary to show that those ratings are sufficiently homogeneous to be presented as an
organizational characteristic (Klein et al., 2000). There are a number of statistical methods of
assessing agreement, such as intraclass correlations, rwg (James, Demaree, & Wolf, 1984), eta-
squared, and within-and-between analysis (WABA) (Dansereau, 1995). Of these, the rwg within-
group agreement index (James et al., 1984) seems to have emerged as the most popular, perhaps
because it is so versatile and because it allows for the derivation of a specific agreement value
within each group examined rather than a more omnibus comparison of between-group variance
to total variance across a number of groups (Klein et al., 2000; Lindell & Brandt, 1999).
Recent refinements in the rwg technique have suggested that the “maximal dissensus”
variant, in which the computation is based on a expected response distribution incorporating the
upper and lower extremes of the response scale, may be more appropriate than using the uniform
response distribution (Lindell, Brandt, & Whitney, 1999). Consequently, within-group
agreement was calculated using the maximal dissensus distribution as recommended by Lindell
et al. (1999). A common rule of thumb is that within-group agreement indices of at least .70
indicate sufficient response consistency to justify aggregating individual responses to the group
level (e.g., George & Bettenhausen, 1990; Judge & Bono, 2000; Klein et al., 2000).
Within-group agreement indices for culture ratings within the 160 organizations as
measured by the rwg are displayed in Figure 2. As Figure 2 indicates, all organizations showed
agreement levels exceeding the .70 rwg value typically used as a guideline for aggregation. These
within-group agreement indices ranged from .77 to .89 (average rwg = .82). Separate rwg indices
computed individually for each of the four culture traits yielded very similar results. These
findings suggest that the organizational cultures for all 160 of these organizations, as rated by
survey respondents, can be construed as agreed-upon organization-level characteristics. These
results also suggest that researchers may wish to consider within-group agreement as a variable,
giving an indication of the homogeneity of the culture, rather than as an absolute threshold.
[insert Figure 2 about here]
Based upon the high level of interrater agreement found in the second phase of the
analysis, respondents’ culture ratings were aggregated at the organization level in order to
examine differences in culture ratings across organizations as well as relationships between
culture indexes/traits and organizational effectiveness. Mean culture index ratings and results of
a series of ANOVAs comparing between-organization to within-organization index variance are
presented in Table 9.
[insert Table 9 about here]
As Table 9 shows, there were large mean differences in culture index ratings among the
160 organizations considered. The largest differences were found for the Empowerment
(F[159,35293]=25.32, p<.001) and Coordination & Integration (F[159,35257]=21.62, p<.001)
indexes and the smallest for the Customer Focus (F[159,35192]=15.33, p<.001) and
Organizational Learning (F[159,35232]=15.89, p<.001) indexes. On average, there was over 19
times as much between-organization as within-organization variance across the 12 indexes.
Once we had established the strength of these organizational differences, we next
examined the criterion-related validity of the culture model using respondents' ratings of 6
different dimensions of organizational performance were used as effectiveness criteria. Previous
research has supported the idea that subjective measures of organizational effectiveness have
acceptable convergent validity with more objective assessments. The two types of measures
often correlate in the .40 to .60 range, and even greater magnitudes are found when the two
assessments are aligned conceptually (c.f. Wall et al., 2004).
[insert Table 10 about here]
Correlations between the culture indexes and traits and respondents' ratings of sales
growth, market share, profitability, quality of products and services, new product development,
and employee satisfaction are presented in Table 10. As the table shows, most of these validity
coefficients were statistically significant at the .01 level and had magnitudes of at least .30.
Correlations between aspects of culture and employee satisfaction were the highest, ranging from
.42 to .79 (average r = .63), whereas they tended to be the lowest with market share (ranging
from .04 to .26, average r = .13). Culture indexes and traits were more modest predictors of
sales growth (average r = .26), profitability (.25), quality (.36), and new product development
(.37). When the six performance measures were combined into a unit-weighted composite,
correlations between the culture indexes/traits and performance ratings ranged from .44 to .68
(average r = .58). Overall, these results demonstrate a strong link between aspects of
organizational culture and these organizational effectiveness measures.
As in past research, these results also show that some culture measures are better
predictors of specific criteria of effectiveness than others (Denison & Mishra, 1995). Sales
growth is most strongly correlated with the external focus traits of adaptability and mission,
while operating performance measures such as quality and profitability are generally more
closely correlated with internal traits such as involvement and consistency. New product
development is least strongly correlated with internal consistency, and involvement is clearly the
strongest predictor of employee satisfaction.
This study has presented a validity test of a model of organizational culture that focuses
on four traits of organizational cultures that have been shown in the research literature to be
linked to various measures of organizational effectiveness. The validation of this model was
based upon a large and diverse sample of 35,474 individuals from 160 different organizations.
The goals of this study were to first establish the psychometric validity of a set of sixty survey
items and twelve five-item indexes as measures of the four underlying traits defined by the
theoretical model and to then demonstrate the criterion-related validity of culture ratings in
predicting organizational effectiveness.
The analysis was conducted in three phases: The first phase provided evidence of internal
consistency for the twelve measures and validated the theoretical structure of the assessment.
The second phase demonstrated that respondents' ratings of organizational culture, as measured
by this assessment, are sufficiently homogeneous to permit their aggregation into organization-
level characteristics. The third phase of the analysis established the criterion-related validity of
the culture assessment in predicting organizational effectiveness.
Overall, the results from the first set of analyses provide strong support for the validity of
the organizational culture survey as a set of measures for the constructs in the theoretical model.
Internal consistency reliabilities demonstrated uniformly positive support for the convergent
validity of the items comprising the twelve measures. Results from the confirmatory factor
analysis showed that the conceptual model of 4 traits each assessed by 3 indexes that are
themselves made up of 5 items closely approximated the observed pattern of relationships
between item ratings. Further analysis indicated that taking out the 12 index-level factors
significantly impairs the fit of the model. Overall, these results provided clear support for the
theoretical model and a good fit overall. The model parameters show a set of strong
interrelationships among the four traits. These results suggest that these traits are closely
interrelated and organizations scoring highly on one of these traits are also quite likely to score
high on the others. The four traits are sufficiently independent to be considered as independent
factors, but do appear from these analyses to be quite closely related.
The survey-based measures of organizational effectiveness used in this study give good
support to the idea that the culture of an organization is closely related to organization
performance. The lack of longitudinal data in this study doesn’t allow us to examine the
direction of causality at this time. But this general finding suggests that culture may be regarded
as a form of social capital which, in principle, should show a “return” over time. Organizational
cultures without the traits described in this model, of course, would be more likely to present an
organization with a negative return. Future research must consider both the theoretical and
empirical implications of viewing culture as a form of social capital (Barney, 1986, Baker,
2000). Full consideration of these issues is beyond the scope of this paper, but now that the
measurement foundation is better established, further empirical and theoretical work can
There are many uses for this model and survey as a diagnostic tool for understanding an
organization’s culture and the impact that it may have on performance. Consistent with prior
research, this study demonstrated that the traits in this model are linked to various aspects of
organizational performance. These findings provide a basis for future-oriented inferences –
organizations that are weak in mission and adaptability, for example, are unlikely to grow.
Organizations that are strong in involvement and consistency are likely to be strong in
performance characteristics such as quality control. The database that has been developed for
this instrument also allows for the responses of any one organization to be compared to the larger
sample to provide normed results that can serve as a benchmark. These links help researchers
and managers alike to better understand organizational cultures and the impact that they have. In
an organizational setting, this limited focus on the instrumental aspects of organizational cultures
also helps to legitimate a broader discussion of the deeper levels of organizational culture and the
influence that underlying beliefs and assumptions have on individual behaviors and
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Table 1: Demographic Characteristics of Organizational Sample
Organizational Category n % of sample
Australia 3 1.9
Canada 5 3.1
France 2 1.3
Germany 4 2.5
Great Britain 8 5.0
India 2 1.3
Japan 5 3.1
Netherlands 2 1.3
Norway 1 .6
Sweden 1 .6
Switzerland 8 5.0
United States 119 74.4
Basic Materials 23 14.4
Consumer Cyclical 19 11.9
Consumer Staples 22 13.8
Health Care 17 10.6
Energy 1 .6
Financials 17 10.6
Capital Goods 17 10.6
Technology 25 15.6
Pharmaceuticals 1 .6
Communication Services 10 6.3
Utilities 7 4.4
Transportation 1 .6
Fewer than 1,000 11 7.2
1,000 to 5,000 26 17.0
5,001 to 10,000 12 7.8
10,001 to 20,000 16 10.5
20,001 to 50,000 30 19.6
50,001 to 100,000 28 18.3
100,001 to 200,000 20 13.1
More than 200,000 10 6.5
Under $100 million 7 5.3
$100 million — $1 billion 17 13.0
$1 billion — $5 billion 35 26.7
$5 billion — $10 billion 14 10.7
$10 billion — $20 billion 15 11.5
$20 billion — $30 billion 18 13.7
$30 billion — $50 billion 14 10.7
More than $50 billion 11 8.4
Note. 1Information on employee population was unavailable for 7 organizations.
2Information on organizational revenue was unavailable for 29 organizations.
Table 2: Demographic Characteristics of Respondent Sample
Demographic Category n % of sample
<20 22 .1
20-29 3,006 8.5
30-39 8,034 22.6
40-49 7,680 21.6
50-59 3,650 10.3
>60 283 .8
No response 12,799 36.1
Male 14,104 39.8
Female 8,369 23.6
No response 13,001 36.6
High school 2,059 5.8
Some college 3,983 11.2
Associate degree 1,910 5.4
Bachelor’s degree 7,231 20.4
Some graduate work 1,894 5.3
Master’s degree 4,115 11.6
Doctoral degree 710 2.0
Other 266 .7
No response 13,306 37.5
Finance and Accounting 2,033 5.7
Engineering 1,863 5.3
Manufacturing and Production 1,928 5.4
Research and Development 1,548 4.4
Sales and Marketing 5,083 14.3
Purchasing 864 2.4
Human Resources 917 2.6
Administration 1,031 2.9
Support staff 1,973 5.6
Professional staff 1,820 5.1
No response 16,414 46.3
Non-management 9,018 25.4
Line management 4,960 14.0
Middle management 4,765 13.4
Senior management 1,031 2.9
Executive/Senior Vice President 280 .8
CEO/President 71 .2
Owner 12 .0
No response 15,337 43.2
Years with organization
Less than 6 months 1,042 2.9
6 months to 1 year 1,432 4.0
1 to 2 years 2,315 6.5
2 to 4 years 3,093 8.7
4 to 6 years 2,017 5.7
6 to 10 years 2,952 8.3
10 to 15 years 2,998 8.5
More than 15 years 5,989 16.9
No response 13,636 38.4
Table 3. Alpha Coefficients and Descriptive Statistics for the Culture Survey
correlation Mean S.D
Involvement Empowerment 1 .43 3.94 .81
=.76 2 .59 3.13 1.01
3 .57 3.11 1.07
4 .56 3.24 .98
5 .51 3.13 1.04
6 .56 3.53 1.00
Team Orientation 7 .70 3.47 1.02
= .82 8 .61 3.31 1.06
9 .63 3.46 1.01
10 .54 3.24 .98
11 .43 3.39 1.03
Development 12 .54 3.31 .95
= .70 13 .56 3.45 1.05
14 .56 3.62 .98
15 .23 3.30 1.08
Consistency Core Values 16 .47 3.13 1.03
= .71 17 .39 3.34 .94
18 .61 3.47 1.01
19 .36 3.74 .94
20 .51 3.84 .92
Agreement 21 .54 3.42 .94
= .74 22 .41 3.50 .94
23 .60 2.94 .91
24 .47 3.09 .96
25 .50 3.15 .97
26 .43 3.22 1.00
27 .60 3.03 1.00
Integration 28 .62 2.70 .98
= .78 29 .53 3.01 1.08
30 .59 3.20 .93
Adaptability 31 .56 2.82 1.04
3 = .87 Creating Change 32 .53 3.29 .99
= .76 33 .61 3.37 .96
34 .46 2.82 .99
35 .48 3.21 .87
36 .57 3.34 .91
Customer Focus 37 .60 3.48 .93
= .74 38 .49 3.01 1.03
39 .53 3.44 1.01
40 .36 3.57 1.00
Organizational 41 .52 3.34 .98
Learning 42 .52 3.04 1.04
= .74 43 .46 2.79 1.08
44 .46 3.73 .93
45 .56 2.76 1.02
Mission 46 .70 3.63 .99
4 = .92 47 .51 3.24 .96
& Intent 48 .75 3.48 .96
= .86 49 .80 3.44 1.00
50 .67 3.29 1.15
Goals & 51 .60 3.24 .92
Objectives 52 .56 3.38 .97
= .80 53 .58 3.70 .86
54 .56 3.67 .91
55 .60 3.37 .97
Vision 56 .63 3.05 .98
= .79 57 .65 3.32 1.00
58 .41 2.59 .99
59 .60 3.02 .99
60 .60 3.10 .93
Table 4. Correlation Matrix for the 12 Indexes of the Culture Survey
Traits Indexes Mean SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Involvement 1. Empowerment 3.31 .71 (.76)
(.89) 2. Team orientation 3.40 .77 .74 (.82)
3. Capability development 3.41 .69 .64 .66 (.70)
Consistency 4. Core values 3.50 .66 .61 .61 .57 (.71)
(.88) 5. Agreement 3.22 .66 .63 .65 .61 .64 (.74)
6. Coordination & Integration 3.03 .73 .61 .63 .55 .57 .65 (.78)
Adaptability 7. Creating change 3.10 .69 .57 .58 .57 .47 .58 .60 (.76)
(.87) 8. Customer focus 3.37 .69 .49 .50 .48 .45 .49 .48 .54 (.74)
9. Organizational learning 3.13 .71 .65 .66 .65 .58 .66 .63 .65 .54 (.74)
Mission 10. Strategic direction & Intent 3.41 .82 .58 .58 .58 .58 .57 .58 .56 .50 .61 (.86)
(.92) 11. Goals & objectives 3.47 .69 .61 .61 .59 .60 .60 .61 .57 .52 .63 .74 (.80)
12. Vision 3.02 .73 .60 .60 .60 .57 .61 .62 .61 .52 .68 .73 .71 (.79)
N=35,474. Coefficient alphas are presented on the diagonal in parentheses.
Table 5: First-Order Factor Loadings
Development Core Values Agreement Coordination
N=30,808 (listwise deletion). All loadings are significant at the p<.01 level.
Table 5: First-Order Factor Loadings—Continued
N=30,808 (listwise deletion). All loadings are significant at the p<.01 level.
Table 6: Second-Order Factor Loadings
Involvement Consistency Adaptability Mission
1. Empowerment .96
2. Team Orientation .94
3. Capability Development .92
4. Core Values .91
5. Agreement .94
& Integration .89
7. Creating Change .88
8. Customer Focus .70
9. Organizational Learning .99
10. Strategic Direction
& Intent .91
11. Goals & Objectives .97
12. Vision .97
N=30,808 (listwise deletion). All loadings are significant at the p<.01 level.
Table 7: Second-Order Factor Correlations
Involvement Consistency Adaptability
Consistency .94 --
Adaptability .92 .93 --
Mission .84 .88 .89
N=30,808 (listwise deletion). All correlations are significant at the p<.01 level.
Table 8: Model Fit Indices for First and Second-Order CFAs
Model Chi-square df RMSEA GFI AGFI CFI
1704 .054 .85 .84 .98
1692 .048 .88 .87 .98
N=30,808 (listwise deletion).
Table 9: Descriptive Statistics for the 12 Culture Indexes and Mean Differences Across
Index Mean SD F-ratio
Empowerment 3.31 .71 25.32
Team Orientation 3.40 .77 19.99
Capability Development 3.41 .69 18.85
Core Values 3.50 .66 21.31
Agreement 3.22 .66 17.96
Coordination & Integration 3.03 .73 21.62
Creating Change 3.10 .69 16.18
Customer Focus 3.37 .69 15.33
Organizational Learning 3.13 .71 15.89
Strategic Direction & Intent 3.41 .82 20.91
Goals & Objectives 3.47 .69 20.10
Mission 3.30 .67 19.51
N=35,474. All F-ratios are statistically significant at the .001 level.
Table 10: Correlations Between Culture Indexes and Measures of Organizational Performance
Share Profit Quality New
Involvement .24** .13 .23** .39** .41** .79** .61**
Empowerment .20* .11 .21** .37** .36** .74** .57**
Team Orientation .17* .11 .20* .32** .36** .70** .51**
Capability Development .33** .16 .26** .41** .43** .77** .65**
Consistency .20** .12 .28** .42** .26** .62** .58**
Core Values .20** .15 .27** .36** .21** .52** .53**
Agreement .26** .13 .29** .43** .32** .66** .60**
Integration .11 .07 .21** .36** .17* .53** .48**
Adaptability .29** .10 .24** .34** .45** .66** .60**
Creating Change .35** .13 .24** .31** .49** .63** .57**
Customer Focus .21** .08 .16* .31** .27** .42** .44**
Organizational Learning .20* .04 .21** .27** .39** .65** .54**
Mission .36** .19* .31** .38** .47** .62** .68**
Strategic Direction &
Intent .40** .26** .32** .38** .53** .55** .66**
Goal Orientation .26** .15 .27** .35** .39** .57** .60**
Vision .34** .10 .29** .34** .41** .66** .65**
N = 155 (5 organizations did not include the 6 performance items in their survey effort). *p<.05. **p<.01.
Figure 1: The Denison Organizational Culture Model
Copyright 2006 Daniel Denison. All rights reserved
Figure 2: Within-Group Agreement (rwg) Values for the 160 Organizations
Appendix. Organizational Culture Survey: Items by Index and Trait
Copyright 2006 Daniel Denison. All rights reserved
Trait Index Item
Involvement Empowerment 1. Most employees are highly involved in their work.
2. Decisions are usually made at the level where the best information is available.
3. Information is widely shared so that everyone can get the information he or she needs when it's needed.
4. Everyone believes that he or she can have a positive impact.
5. Business planning is ongoing and involves everyone in the process to some degree.
Team Orientation 6. Cooperation across different parts of the organization is actively encouraged.
7. People work like they are part of a team.
8. Teamwork is used to get work done, rather than hierarchy.
9. Teams are our primary building blocks.
10. Work is organized so that each person can see the relationship between his or her job and the goals of the
Development 11. Authority is delegated so that people can act on their own.
12. The "bench strength" (capability of people) is constantly improving.
13. There is continuous investment in the skills of employees.
14. The capabilities of people are viewed as an important source of competitive advantage.
15. Problems often arise because we do not have the skills necessary to do the job. (Reversed Scale)
Consistency Core Values 16. The leaders and managers "practice what they preach".
17. There is a characteristic management style and a distinct set of management practices.
18. There is a clear and consistent set of values that governs the way we do business.
19. Ignoring core values will get you in trouble.
20. There is an ethical code that guides our behavior and tells us right from wrong.
Agreement 21. When disagreements occur, we work hard to achieve "win-win" solutions.
22. There is a "strong" culture.
23. It is easy to reach consensus, even on difficult issues.
24. We often have trouble reaching agreement on key issues. (Reversed Scale)
25. There is a clear agreement about the right way and the wrong way to do things.
Integration 26. Our approach to doing business is very consistent and predictable.
27. People from different parts of the organization share a common perspective.
28. It is easy to coordinate projects across different parts of the organization.
29. Working with someone from another part of this organization is like working with someone from a different
organization. (Reversed Scale)
30. There is good alignment of goals across levels.
Adaptability Creating Change 31. The way things are done is very flexible and easy to change.
32. We respond well to competitors and other changes in the business environment.
33. New and improved ways to do work are continually adopted.
34. Attempts to create change usually meet with resistance. (Reversed Scale)
35. Different parts of the organization often cooperate to create change.
Customer Focus 36. Customer comments and recommendations often lead to changes.
37. Customer input directly influences our decisions.
38. All members have a deep understanding of customer wants and needs.
39. The interests of the customer often get ignored in our decisions. (Reversed Scale)
40. We encourage direct contact with customers by our people.
Learning 41. We view failure as an opportunity for learning and improvement.
42. Innovation and risk taking are encouraged and rewarded.
43. Lots of things "fall between the cracks". (Reversed Scale)
44. Learning is an important objective in our day-to-day work.
45. We make certain that the "right hand knows what the left hand is doing".
Mission Strategic Direction
& Intent 46. There is a long-term purpose and direction.
47. Our strategy leads other organizations to change the way they compete in the industry.
48. There is a clear mission that gives meaning and direction to our work.
49. There is a clear strategy for the future.
50. Our strategic direction is unclear to me. (Reversed Scale)
Goals & Objectives 51. There is widespread agreement about goals.
52. Leaders set goals that are ambitious, but realistic.
53. The leadership has "gone on record" about the objectives we are trying to meet.
54. We continuously track our progress against our stated goals.
55. People understand what needs to be done for us to succeed in the long run.
Vision 56. We have a shared vision of what the organization will be like in the future
57. Leaders have a long-term viewpoint.
58. Short-term thinking often compromises our long-term vision. (Reversed Scale)
59. Our vision creates excitement and motivation for our employees.
60. We are able to meet short-term demands without compromising our long-term vision.