Transforming Organizational Culture the Sterling Way

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An organization’s culture directly impacts its financial performance, effectiveness, and longevity.

Dr. Daniel Denison and his team of researchers first explored and validated this concept over the course of two decades. Denison discovered a direct correlation between a company’s corporate culture percentile ranking and its return on investment—the stronger a company’s culture, the greater its profitability. That is why when contracted to implement a cultural transformation Sterling Integrators always begins by employing Dr. Denison’s cultural assessment tool: the Denison Model.

The Denison Model visually depicts your organization’s health by scoring four essential traits:

1.  Mission

How developed, communicated, and accepted is your organization’s vision and mission? Does the organization know where it’s going and does it have a strategy for how to get there?

2.  Adaptability

Organizations, like organisms, must adapt to their changing environments or die. Is your organization eager to detect changes and opportunities in its environment and then respond to them? Can your organization learn and change more quickly than the competition?

3.  Involvement

How engaged and empowered are your employees? Do you have teams that work well together? Is everyone properly incentivized and “paddling” in the same direction?

4.  Consistency

Is there agreement among everyone on the core values of the organization? Do people know what is expected of them and what is strongly discouraged?

The Denison Organizational Culture Model

After completing the Denison survey and analyzing the results the next step is to conduct a series of small group discussions. In these confidential focus groups, employees speak frankly and openly about what they feel is beneficial and negative about the existing culture. Sterling Integrators then presents the Denison Survey results and its findings from the focus groups to the leaders of the organization.

With a tool like the Denison Model, assessment is easy. But translating information into constructive change is much more difficult.

Here’s how we approach the hard steps of leading a cultural transformation:

  • First, the leadership team must imagine what the ideal culture of the organization would look like. The ideal organizational culture is the one that best manifests the organization’s vision while incorporating the values of its ownership. The organizational culture of a startup software company might be vastly different from that of a second-generation manufacturer because the visions of the companies are probably different. A company owned by an individual who values craftsmanship and quality above all else will have a different culture from a company owned by a private equity group looking primarily to protect its investment.
  • Next, compare your ideal culture with reality as it is shown in the results of your Denison survey and focus group discussions.
  • Then identify and prioritize the discrepancies between the ideal and existing culture. The leadership team, along with the Sterling Integrators team, brainstorms ways to remedy those discrepancies and estimates what it will cost in terms of financial and company resources to make the necessary changes.
  • Finally, company leaders must decide which individuals or departments will be made responsible and empowered to implement the various cultural transformation initiatives. Once a Cultural Transformation Strategy and Timeline have been developed, it is up to Sterling Integrators to ensure that everyone sticks to the plan until the transformation is complete.


We at Sterling Integrators believe that while the concept of organizational culture tends to be esoteric and abstract, its implementation must be absolutely concrete and guided by a proven system.

The end result is a more profitable, efficient, and robust organization.

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