This paper offers a set of sociotechnical principles to guide system design, and some consideration of the role of principles of this kind. The principles extend earlier formulations by Cherns (1976, Human Relations, 29, 783-792; 1987, Human Relations, 40, 153-162). They are intended to apply to the design of new systems, including those incorporating new information technologies and a range of modern management practices and ways of working. They attempt to provide a more integrated perspective than is apparent in existing formulations. The principles are of three broad types: meta, content and process, though they are highly interrelated. They are for use by system managers, users and designers, and by technologists and social scientists. They offer ideas for debate and provide devices through which detailed design discussions can be elaborated. The principles are most likely to be effective if they are relatively freestanding, but supported by relevant methods and tools. The principles are necessary but not sufficient to make a substantial contribution to design practice.