Implementing the Seven Principles for Intentional Culture Change
Implementing the Seven Principles for Intentional Work Culture Change

Transforming organizational culture is a complex and crucial process for businesses seeking to adapt to new realities and improve their internal dynamics. 

Based on the insights from “We Built This Culture (so We Can Change It): Seven Principles for Intentional Culture Change” by Hamedani et al. (2024), this guide will help change teams understand how to effectively implement these principles, recognize when they are working, and identify potential issues.

Principle 1: People as Culturally Shaped Shapers
  • Definition: This principle highlights that individuals are both products and producers of their cultural environments. Their cultural contexts influence them, but they also have the agency to effect change within them.
  • How to do it:
    • Ask and listen to all employees to share and add ideas for change.
    • Provide platforms for sharing feedback and innovations.
    • Encourage managers at all levels to facilitate change, not just dictate it.
  • What you will see when working well:
    • Increased engagement and initiative across the organization.
    • A flow of new ideas from various levels of the organization.
    • Visible changes in behavior that align with proposed cultural shifts.
  • How to notice when not going well:
    • Apathy or lack of participation in initiatives.
    • Continued dominance of top-down decision-making.
    • Resistance or silence from employees at the front and customer-facing line.
Principle 2: Mapping Cultural Levels
  • Definition: Understanding the different layers and dimensions of work-culture within an organization is crucial. This principle involves effectively identifying and evaluating how work-culture operates across various levels—individual, group, organizational, and societal—to focus interventions effectively.
  • How to do it:
    • Conduct a comprehensive audit of existing work-cultural and behavioral norms and values.
    • Identify discrepancies between what is really happening, what we think is happening, what we say is happening, how we want things to happen, and how things really happen and change.
    • Engage different layers of the organization in the mapping process.
  • What you will see when working well:
    • Clear understanding of where changes are needed and helpful.
    • Coherence between different levels of the organization regarding work-culture perceptions.
    • Shared focus and impact on areas that need to change and can benefit from change.
  • How to notice when not going well:
    • Confusion or conflict about priorities and values.
    • Misalignment between the perceptions of management and employees.
    • Lack of clarity about which areas need or want change.
Principle 3: Aligning Change Mechanisms
  • Definition: Effective work-culture change requires aligning interventions across different organizational levels. This principle ensures that micro (individual) changes are supported by and in sync with macro (organizational and societal) levels.
  • How to do it:
    • Ensure that change efforts at different levels are interconnected.
    • Align incentives and rewards with desired work-cultural changes.
    • Regularly review and adjust strategies to maintain alignment.
  • What you will see when working well:
    • Consistent adoption of new behaviors across the organization.
    • Positive feedback loops that reinforce change.
    • Seamless integration of changes into daily operations.
  • How to notice when not going well:
    • Fragmented implementation and confusion.
    • Efforts at one level undermine changes at another.
    • Lack of support for change initiatives among certain groups.
Principle 4: Leveraging Core Values
  • Definition: This principle involves using the organization’s core values as levers for change. By aligning change initiatives with these core values, organizations can ensure that changes are meaningful and supported by the workforce.
  • How to do it:
    • Embed organizational values into every change initiative.
    • Communicate how new behaviors or processes reflect these core values.
    • Use stories and examples to illustrate the connection between values and actions.
  • What you will see when working well:
    • Strong resonance of change initiatives with employee beliefs.
    • Increased pride and commitment to the organization.
    • Greater coherence in how values are lived out through organizational practices.
  • How to notice when not going well:
    • Disconnection between stated values and daily practices.
    • Cynicism or skepticism regarding the authenticity of core values.
    • Actions and decisions that contradict professed values.
Principle 5: Navigating Power and Identity
  • Definition: Acknowledging and managing the dynamics of power and identity within an organization are essential for facilitating work-culture change. This principle emphasizes the need to understand how power relationships and identity politics influence the acceptance and resistance to change.
  • How to do it:
    • Acknowledge and address power dynamics that may affect change processes.
    • Facilitate inclusive practices that allow diverse voices to be heard.
    • Actively manage and mitigate identity threats during changes.
  • What you will see when working well:
    • Open and respectful discussions about change impacts.
    • Broad participation across diverse groups.
    • Recognition and mitigation of unintended consequences of change on different groups.
  • How to notice when not going well:
    • Persistent resistance or backlash from marginalized groups.
    • Overrepresentation of certain groups in decision-making processes.
    • Increase in workplace conflicts or complaints related to identity issues.
Principle 6: Interaction of Cultures
  • Definition: It recognizes that multiple work-cultures and subcultures interact within any organization. Understanding these interactions is vital for managing how changes in one area can impact others, potentially leading to conflict or synergy.
  • How to do it:
    • Identify and address interactions between different subcultures within the organization.
    • Create opportunities for cross-cultural collaboration and learning.
    • Monitor the effects of change across different cultural groups.
  • What you will see when working well:
    • Enhanced cooperation between departments or teams.
    • Successful integration of diverse cultural insights and practices.
    • Positive feedback about interdepartmental relationships and outcomes.
  • How to notice when not going well:
    • Clashes or miscommunications between different subcultures.
    • Siloed working conditions persisting or worsening.
    • Complaints about fairness or equity from various groups.
Principle 7: Importance of Timing and Readiness
  • Definition: The success of any change initiative depends significantly on its timing and the organization’s readiness for change. This principle underscores the need to assess and prepare for the right moment to introduce changes, ensuring that the organization and its members are adequately prepared to embrace them.
  • How to do it:
    • Assess organizational readiness for change before implementation.
    • Choose optimal timing for initiating change processes, considering external and internal factors.
    • Prepare the organization through pre-change communication and training.
  • What you will see when working well:
    • Smooth transition into new ways of working.
    • High levels of engagement and readiness from the start.
    • Positive morale and optimism about the future.
  • How to notice when not going well:
    • High levels of confusion or stress related to changes.
    • Resistance or reluctance to participate in training and development.
    • Timing conflicts with other major organizational activities.

By integrating these principles into your change strategy, your team can foster a culture that embraces change and thrives on it, ensuring sustainable growth and continuous improvement.


Hamedani, M. G., Markus, H. R., Hetey, R. C., & Eberhardt, J. L. (2024). We built this culture (so we can change it): Seven principles for intentional culture change. American Psychologist, 79(3), 384–402.