Process, Strategy, Structure, System and People

You can use the 7-S model to help analyze the current situation (Point A), a proposed future situation (Point B) and to identify gaps and inconsistencies between them. It’s then a question of adjusting and tuning the elements of the 7-S model to ensure that your organization works effectively and well once you reach the desired endpoint.

Sounds simple? Well, of course not: Changing your organization probably will not be simple at all! Whole books and methodologies are dedicated to analyzing organizational strategy, improving performance and managing change. The 7-S model is a good framework to help you ask the right questions – but it won’t give you all the answers. For that you’ll need to bring together the right knowledge, skills and experience.

When it comes to asking the right questions, we’ve developed a Mind Tools checklist and a matrix to keep track of how the seven elements align with each other. Supplement these with your own questions, based on your organization’s specific circumstances and accumulated wisdom.

7-S Checklist Questions

Here are some of the questions that you’ll need to explore to help you understand your situation in terms of the 7-S framework. Use them to analyze your current (Point A) situation first, and then repeat the exercise for your proposed situation (Point B).

Strategy:

  • What is our strategy?
  • How do we intend to achieve our objectives?
  • How do we deal with competitive pressure?
  • How are changes in customer demands dealt with?
  • How is strategy adjusted for environmental issues?

Structure:

  • How is the company/team divided?
  • What is the hierarchy?
  • How do the various departments coordinate activities?
  • How do the team members organize and align themselves?
  • Is decision making and controlling centralized or decentralized? Is this as it should be, given what we’re doing?
  • Where are the lines of communication? Explicit and implicit?

Systems:

  • What are the main systems that run the organization? Consider financial and HR systems as well as communications and document storage.
  • Where are the controls and how are they monitored and evaluated?
  • What internal rules and processes does the team use to keep on track?

Shared Values:

  • What are the core values?
  • What is the corporate/team culture?
  • How strong are the values?
  • What are the fundamental values that the company/team was built on?

Style:

  • How participative is the management/leadership style?
  • How effective is that leadership?
  • Do employees/team members tend to be competitive or cooperative?
  • Are there real teams functioning within the organization or are they just nominal groups?

Staff:

  • What positions or specializations are represented within the team?
  • What positions need to be filled?
  • Are there gaps in required competencies?

Skills:

  • What are the strongest skills represented within the company/team?
  • Are there any skills gaps?
  • What is the company/team known for doing well?
  • Do the current employees/team members have the ability to do the job?
  • How are skills monitored and assessed?

7-S Matrix Questions

Using the information you have gathered, now examine where there are gaps and inconsistencies between elements. Remember you can use this to look at either your current or your desired organization.

Key Points

The McKinsey 7-S model is one that can be applied to almost any organizational or team effectiveness issue. If something within your organization or team isn’t working, chances are there is inconsistency between some of the elements identified by this classic model. Once these inconsistencies are revealed, you can work to align the internal elements to make sure they are all contributing to the shared goals and values.

The process of analyzing where you are right now in terms of these elements is worthwhile in and of itself. But by taking this analysis to the next level and determining the ultimate state for each of the factors, you can really move your organization or team forward.

You can use the 7-S model to help analyze the current situation (Point A), a proposed future situation (Point B) and to identify gaps and inconsistencies between them. It’s then a question of adjusting and tuning the elements of the 7-S model to ensure that your organization works effectively and well once you reach the desired endpoint.

Sounds simple? Well, of course not: Changing your organization probably will not be simple at all! Whole books and methodologies are dedicated to analyzing organizational strategy, improving performance and managing change. The 7-S model is a good framework to help you ask the right questions – but it won’t give you all the answers. For that you’ll need to bring together the right knowledge, skills and experience.

When it comes to asking the right questions, we’ve developed a Mind Tools checklist and a matrix to keep track of how the seven elements align with each other. Supplement these with your own questions, based on your organization’s specific circumstances and accumulated wisdom.

7-S Checklist Questions

Here are some of the questions that you’ll need to explore to help you understand your situation in terms of the 7-S framework. Use them to analyze your current (Point A) situation first, and then repeat the exercise for your proposed situation (Point B).

Strategy:

  • What is our strategy?
  • How do we intend to achieve our objectives?
  • How do we deal with competitive pressure?
  • How are changes in customer demands dealt with?
  • How is strategy adjusted for environmental issues?

Structure:

  • How is the company/team divided?
  • What is the hierarchy?
  • How do the various departments coordinate activities?
  • How do the team members organize and align themselves?
  • Is decision making and controlling centralized or decentralized? Is this as it should be, given what we’re doing?
  • Where are the lines of communication? Explicit and implicit?

Systems:

  • What are the main systems that run the organization? Consider financial and HR systems as well as communications and document storage.
  • Where are the controls and how are they monitored and evaluated?
  • What internal rules and processes does the team use to keep on track?
  • Shared Values:
  • What are the core values?
  • What is the corporate/team culture?
  • How strong are the values?
  • What are the fundamental values that the company/team was built on?

Style:

  • How participative is the management/leadership style?
  • How effective is that leadership?
  • Do employees/team members tend to be competitive or cooperative?
  • Are there real teams functioning within the organization or are they just nominal groups?

Staff:

  • What positions or specializations are represented within the team?
  • What positions need to be filled?
  • Are there gaps in required competencies?

Skills:

  • What are the strongest skills represented within the company/team?
  • Are there any skills gaps?
  • What is the company/team known for doing well?
  • Do the current employees/team members have the ability to do the job?
  • How are skills monitored and assessed?
  • 7-S Matrix Questions

Using the information you have gathered, now examine where there are gaps and inconsistencies between elements. Remember you can use this to look at either your current or your desired organization.

Click here to download our McKinsey 7-S Worksheet, which contains a matrix that you can use to check off alignment between each of the elements as you go through the following steps:

Start with your Shared Values: Are they consistent with your structure, strategy, and systems? If not, what needs to change?

Then look at the hard elements. How well does each one support the others? Identify where changes need to be made.

Next look at the other soft elements. Do they support the desired hard elements? Do they support one another? If not, what needs to change?

As you adjust and align the elements, you’ll need to use an iterative (and often time consuming) process of making adjustments, and then re-analyzing how that impacts other elements and their alignment. The end result of better performance will be worth it.

Tip:

For similar approaches to this, see our articles on the Burke-Litwin Change Model  , and the Congruence Model  . You may also find our articles on the Change Curve  , Impact Analysis   and Lewin’s Change Management Model   useful.

Key Points

The McKinsey 7-S model is one that can be applied to almost any organizational or team effectiveness issue. If something within your organization or team isn’t working, chances are there is inconsistency between some of the elements identified by this classic model. Once these inconsistencies are revealed, you can work to align the internal elements to make sure they are all contributing to the shared goals and values.

The process of analyzing where you are right now in terms of these elements is worthwhile in and of itself. But by taking this analysis to the next level and determining the ultimate state for each of the factors, you can really move your organization or team forward.

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