How to Build a Great Culture

One of the most important roles of a senior leader is certainly to create a culture that ensures the organization is able to deliver what the business needs when it needs it. To create an effective culture, a leader must understand that he or she is the chief architect of the organizational culture. Everything the leader does, from what he or she says, how meetings are conducted, what reports are requested, and how decisions are made, all collectively create culture.

The Denison Culture Model, created and perfected by University of Michigan and IMD (International Institute for Management Development) professor Dan Denison (author of Leading Change in Global Organizations), is a superb way for leaders to be strategic about architecting their culture, in a way that supports the business and is true to the leader's personal values. Through his research, Dr. Denison has been able to prove through his model that the most effective organizational cultures have a unique balance of:

  1. A clearly articulated and well-understood Mission.
  2. Consistency of Agreement on core values, processes and ways of doing business.
  3. The Involvement, empowerment and capability development of staff.
  4. The Adaptability to learn and change to meet the needs of customers.

The model has been validated to show that organizations who demonstrate the four characteristics, have significantly better outcomes as a business in terms of key measures such as market share, profitability, operational efficiency, and safety. As a leader, ask your leadership team to rate the function on each component of the Culture model to get a sense where change and improvement is necessary. This is a great starting point to understand what exists today and will certainly jump start a very strategic conversation.


Leaders, Teams, and Organizations