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McKinney’s 7s Framework

McKinsey 7s model is a tool that analyzes firm’s organizational design by looking at 7 key internal elements: strategy, structure, systems, shared values, style, staff and skills, in order to identify if they are effectively aligned and allow organization to achieve its objectives.

McKinsey 7s model was developed in 1980s by McKinsey consultants Tom Peters, Robert Waterman and Julien Philips with a help from Richard Pascale and Anthony G. Athos. Since the introduction, the model has been widely used by academics and practitioners and remains one of the most popular strategic planning tools. It sought to present an emphasis on human resources (Soft S), rather than the traditional mass production tangibles of capital, infrastructure and equipment, as a key to higher organizational performance.

The goal of the model was to show how 7 elements of the company: Structure, Strategy, Skills, Staff, Style, Systems, and Shared values, can be aligned together to achieve effectiveness in a company. The key point of the model is that all the seven areas are interconnected and a change in one area requires change in the rest of a firm for it to function effectively.

Below you can find the McKinsey model, which represents the connections between seven areas and divides them into ‘Soft Ss’ and ‘Hard Ss’. The shape of the model emphasizes interconnectedness of the elements.

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The model can be applied to many situations and is a valuable tool when organizational design is at question. The most common uses of the framework are:

  • To facilitate organizational change.
  • To help implement new strategy.
  • To identify how each area may change in a future.
  • To facilitate the merger of organizations.

7s factors

In McKinsey model, the seven areas of organization are divided into the ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ areas. Strategy, structure and systems are hard elements that are much easier to identify and manage when compared to soft elements. On the other hand, soft areas, although harder to manage, are the foundation of the organization and are more likely to create the sustained competitive advantage.

HARD S SOFT S
Strategy Style
Structure Staff
Systems Skills
  1. Strategy is a plan developed by a firm to achieve sustained competitive advantage and successfully compete in the market. What does a well-aligned strategy mean in 7s McKinsey model? In general, a sound strategy is the one that’s clearly articulated, is long-term, helps to achieve competitive advantage and is reinforced by strong vision, mission and values. But it’s hard to tell if such strategy is well-aligned with other elements when analyzed alone. So the key in 7s model is not to look at your company to find the great strategy, structure, systems and etc. but to look if its aligned with other elements. For example, short-term strategy is usually a poor choice for a company but if its aligned with other 6 elements, then it may provide strong results.
  2. Structure represents the way business divisions and units are organized and includes the information of who is accountable to whom. In other words, structure is the organizational chart of the firm. It is also one of the most visible and easy to change elements of the framework.
  3. Systems are the processes and procedures of the company, which reveal business’ daily activities and how decisions are made. Systems are the area of the firm that determines how business is done and it should be the main focus for managers during organizational change.
  4. Skills are the abilities that firm’s employees perform very well. They also include capabilities and competences. During organizational change, the question often arises of what skills the company will really need to reinforce its new strategy or new structure.
  5. Staff element is concerned with what type and how many employees an organization will need and how they will be recruited, trained, motivated and rewarded.
  6. Style represents the way the company is managed by top-level managers, how they interact, what actions do they take and their symbolic value. In other words, it is the management style of company’s leaders.
  7. Shared Values are at the core of McKinsey 7s model. They are the norms and standards that guide employee behavior and company actions and thus, are the foundation of every organization.

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