Building a Strong Organizational Foundation: Decoding the McKinsey 7-S Framework

Introducing the model

Tom Peters and Robert Waterman were consultants at McKinsey & Company.

They identified a list of seven key internal elements to manage if you want your organization to be successful. 

This is how the 7-S Framework came to reality.

In this article, we'll explore the 7 elements and how we can manage them to improve our organization. 

Let's get our hands dirty!

The 7 elements of the McKinsey Model

This model categorizes the elements as either "hard" or "soft". 

Hard elements are easy to identify and management can easily influence them. Within this category, we find:

  • Strategy: This is the organization's plan to raise over its competitors.
  • Structure: This is how company teams are structured and organized.
  • Systems: These are the activities and processes in place to deliver the daily work.

The four soft elements are harder to describe and are influenced by our company culture. 

  • Shared values: The core values of the company. 
  • Skills: Skills and competencies of the organization's employees.
  • Style: This is about the leadership style adopted and followed by managers.
  • Staff: All the organization's employees.

All are important, but we can see below how the Shared values rely on the middle and set the guidelines for the others.

How to use the 7-S Model

Now that we know which are the seven elements, it's time to see how to apply this model.

I'll ask you a series of questions that will help us with this exercise:

  • Are your shared values aligned with your soft elements (strategy, structure and systems)? If not, what would you change?
  • Now focus on the hard elements. How well does each one support the others? Is your strategy aligned with your structure and systems?
  • Let's move now to the soft elements. Do they support the hard elements? Do they support one another? If not, what would you change?
At this point, you may start connecting the dots. The 7-S Model is about coherence and alignment between all the elements. 

At the end of the day, an organization with a misalignment between Strategy and Structure or between Shared Values and Style (leadership) is doomed to fail.

Final thoughts

Did you think about how is your organization fitting in this model? 

If that's the case, I will consider my mission as accomplished. My main goal while writing these lines was to make you think and reflect on it. 

I would love to read your comments below. If you prefer you can also send me a DM on Twitter.

By the way, if you liked what you read, let's connect. 

May 23, 2023


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