Flevy Blog is an online business magazine covering Business Strategies, Business Theories, & Business Stories.

7 Principles of Culture Change

Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Organization Culture Assessment Questionnaire (8-page Word document). Each organization has its own culture -- the beliefs and norms of behavior that guide individual actions and decisions. These define what is expected from the members of the organization in order to "fit in." To under your organization's corporate culture, we can leverage an organizational [read more]

Also, if you are interested in becoming an expert on Organizational Culture (OC), take a look at Flevy's Organizational Culture (OC) Frameworks offering here. This is a curated collection of best practice frameworks based on the thought leadership of leading consulting firms, academics, and recognized subject matter experts. By learning and applying these concepts, you can you stay ahead of the curve. Full details here.

* * * *

Employee behaviors are critical for the success of Business Transformation endeavors.  However, transforming the ingrained behaviors and mindsets of the workforce isn’t straightforward, and when tackled cause the enterprise’s emotional state to go down.

Leaders need to identify the components of Culture that are in line with their Corporate Strategy.  They have to ascertain and harness the positive elements of culture that can drive the desired Transformation and suppress those that obstruct it.

For the desired Organizational Culture to sustain, leaders should work on gaining acceptance of the transformed behaviors.  Leaders who do not give culture its due importance risk ruining their strategic endeavors, as they lack the commitment required from the employees to achieve success.

The real question is why senior leaders fail to use the positive elements of Organizational Culture constructively in the first place.  The answer is simple; there are 4 common yet wrong assumptions—or myths—regarding culture change that are deeply established in most businesses that are anything but facts.  Paying heed to—and acting on—these 4 myths results in grave consequences:

  1. Culture is the root cause of all our failures
  2. Changing our Organizational Culture is beyond us, forget about it
  3. Let Human Resources deal with Organizational Culture
  4. Culture is the responsibility of top management

When senior executives devise a strategy to transform the deeply entrenched organizational culture—by putting in place new policies, practices, reward structures, and performance management systems—there is strong resistance that outplays the strategy.

This is primarily due to employees’ reservations and uncertainties regarding the impact of these changes on their work, colleagues, atmosphere, routines, family, and their enterprise’s reputation.  Transforming the Organizational Culture using the individual’s actions and conduct necessitates seeking assistance from 7 guiding principles:

  1. Be Practical
  2. Reinforce New Behaviors
  3. Seek Out Role Models
  4. Identify Cultural Carriers
  5. Leverage Existing Culture
  6. Be a Role Model
  7. Explain Impact of New Behavior

Application of these guiding principles facilitates in transpiring successful culture change.  Let’s dive deeper into a few of these guiding principles.

Be Practical

The first guiding principle to changing the culture involves starting rationally and pragmatically.  It is not feasible to strive to change every behavior at once.  Leaders need to concentrate on the behaviors most critical for the organization.   The ones that reverberate with the existing company culture and have a key role in improving the organizational performance.  This entails ascertaining groups of employees whose behaviors should be transformed immediately.  A clear demonstration of the requisite changes goes a long way in reinforcing the desired behaviors and culture in the organization.

Reinforce New Behaviors

The 2nd principle to changing culture involves emphasizing new behaviors.  The desired behaviors should be reinforced using formal and informal mechanisms.  Formal reinforcement mechanisms include metrics, processes, appraisals, salary reviews, training, and incentives to reward new behaviors.  These formal mechanisms allow people to practice new behaviors repetitively, until they begin to realize their value.  Informal reinforcement mechanisms include support networks and associations to nurture sensitivity and devotion needed to cope with uncertainties.

Seek out Role Models

Organizational Culture Transformation necessitates distinguishing role models to demonstrate the desired behaviors.  Culture change begins when change practitioners act by modeling the new behaviors.  These change practitioners are pride builders for an organization.  The examples set by these practitioners assist in inculcating pride in others about embracing the desired behaviors.  This action is referred to as “positive deviance” or constructive non-conformity.  These pride builders in turn identify and develop more exemplars.

Interested in learning more about the other guiding principles of culture change?  You can download an editable PowerPoint on 7 Guiding Principles of Culture Change here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

Do You Find Value in This Framework?

You can download in-depth presentations on this and hundreds of similar business frameworks from the FlevyPro Library.  FlevyPro is trusted and utilized by 1000s of management consultants and corporate executives.  Here’s what some have to say:

“My FlevyPro subscription provides me with the most popular frameworks and decks in demand in today’s market.  They not only augment my existing consulting and coaching offerings and delivery, but also keep me abreast of the latest trends, inspire new products and service offerings for my practice, and educate me in a fraction of the time and money of other solutions.  I strongly recommend FlevyPro to any consultant serious about success.”

– Bill Branson, Founder at Strategic Business Architects

“As a niche strategic consulting firm, Flevy and FlevyPro frameworks and documents are an on-going reference to help us structure our findings and recommendations to our clients as well as improve their clarity, strength, and visual power.  For us, it is an invaluable resource to increase our impact and value.”

– David Coloma, Consulting Area Manager at Cynertia Consulting

“FlevyPro has been a brilliant resource for me, as an independent growth consultant, to access a vast knowledge bank of presentations to support my work with clients.  In terms of RoI, the value I received from the very first presentation I downloaded paid for my subscription many times over!  The quality of the decks available allows me to punch way above my weight – it’s like having the resources of a Big 4 consultancy at your fingertips at a microscopic fraction of the overhead.”

– Roderick Cameron, Founding Partner at SGFE Ltd

17-slide PowerPoint presentation
Improving Employee Engagement is a priority in most Talent and HR Strategies. This presentation provides a 5-step approach to building a culture of Employee Engagement. This processed was developed by Aon Hewitt based on the Aon Hewitt Top Companies for Leaders study. Best practices from the [read more]

Want to Achieve Excellence in Organizational Culture (OC)?

Gain the knowledge and develop the expertise to become an expert in Organizational Culture (OC). Our frameworks are based on the thought leadership of leading consulting firms, academics, and recognized subject matter experts. Click here for full details.

Organizational Culture, also referred to as Corporate Culture or Company Culture, is the set of underlying and shared beliefs, vision, assumptions, values, habits, business philosophies, and ways of interacting that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of the organization.

Organizational Culture permeates the organization, affecting all functions and all levels. It starts with what employees do and how they do it—and ultimately drives why employees do what they do. Culture is like the DNA of the organization.

That is why a healthy Company Culture leads to strong Performance, Growth, and Excellence—and the opposite is also true. For any initiative to be successful, we need a Corporate Culture that inherently supports that initiative.

Learn about our Organizational Culture (OC) Best Practice Frameworks here.

Readers of This Article Are Interested in These Resources

13-page PDF document
Innovation is actually easy--when the corporate culture is supporting it. Unfortunately today many companies show "excellent" practise killing the innovative spirit. In this new in-depth article Dirk Loop explores the opportunities every employee--not just executives and innovation [read more]

46-slide PowerPoint presentation
30-slide PowerPoint presentation

About Mark Bridges

Mark Bridges is a Senior Director of Strategy at Flevy. Flevy is your go-to resource for best practices in business management, covering management topics from Strategic Planning to Operational Excellence to Digital Transformation (view full list here). Learn how the Fortune 100 and global consulting firms do it. Improve the growth and efficiency of your organization by leveraging Flevy's library of best practice methodologies and templates. Prior to Flevy, Mark worked as an Associate at McKinsey & Co. and holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.

, , , , , , , ,

Complimentary Business Training Guides

Many companies develop robust strategies, but struggle with operationalizing their strategies into implementable steps. This presentation from flevy introduces 12 powerful business frameworks spanning both Strategy Development and Strategy Execution. [Learn more]

  This 48-page whitepaper, authored by consultancy Envisioning, provides the frameworks, tools, and insights needed to manage serious Change—under the backdrop of the business lifecycle. These lifecycle stages are each marked by distinct attributes, challenges, and behaviors. [Learn more]

We've developed a very comprehensive collection of Strategy & Transformation PowerPoint templates for you to use in your own business presentations, spanning topics from Growth Strategy to Brand Development to Innovation to Customer Experience to Strategic Management. [Learn more]

  We have compiled a collection of 10 Lean Six Sigma templates (Excel) and Operational Excellence guides (PowerPoint) by a multitude of LSS experts. These tools cover topics including 8 Disciplines (8D), 5 Why's, 7 Wastes, Value Stream Mapping (VSM), and DMAIC. [Learn more]
Recent Articles by Corporate Function






The Flevy Business Blog (https://flevy.com/blog) is a leading source of information on business strategies, business theories, and business stories. Most of our articles are authored by management consultants and industry executives with over 20 years of experience.

Flevy (https://flevy.com) is the marketplace for business best practices, such as management frameworks, presentation templates, and financial models. Our best practice documents are of the same caliber as those produced by top-tier consulting firms (like McKinsey, Bain, Accenture, BCG, and Deloitte) and used by Fortune 100 organizations. Learn more about Flevy here.

Connect with Flevy:


About Flevy.com   /   Terms   /   Privacy Policy
© . Flevy LLC. All Rights Reserved.