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Monday, March 7, 2011

The 7S of Effective Change

The 7S model is a management model that describes 7 factors, which together, determine the way in which organizations operate.  It was developed in the early 1980s by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, two consultants working at the McKinsey & Company consulting firm.  The basic premise of the model is that there are seven internal aspects of an organization that need to be aligned if it is to be successful.  These seven elements are all interdependent, so failure to consider one of these factors may affect the others. 

The elements are grouped into two sub-categories of "hard" elements (red circles) and "soft "elements (brown circles). 

"Hard" elements are easier to define or identify and management can directly influence them.  Soft" elements, on the other hand, can be more difficult to describe, and are less tangible and more influenced by culture. However, these soft elements are as important as the hard elements if the organization is going to be successful.

A simplified description for each of the elements can be given as:

Strategy: the plan devised to maintain and build competitive advantage over the competition.
Structure: the way the organization is structured and who reports to whom.
Systems: the daily activities and procedures that staff members engage in to get the job done.
Shared Values: these are the core values of the company that are evidenced in the corporate culture and the general work ethic.
Style: the style of leadership adopted.
Staff: the employees and their general capabilities.
Skills: the actual skills and competencies of the employees working for the company.

The central theme of the model is that the seven elements are interconnected and interdependent upon one another. In order to achieve business success, each of the seven elements must be aligned and mutually reinforcing each other. Effecting change using this model involves the assessment of all areas, simultaneously taking into account their nature and effect on each other.

If something within your organization or team isn't working, chances are there is inconsistency between some of the elements identified by this 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 7-S model is a useful way to look at the many interrelated aspects of a complex organization and it's a great way to help you understand your organization and leverage it for effective change. 

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