7S model

The 7S approach suggests there are seven aspects of an organisation that need to harmonise with each other, to point in the same direction like the needles of seven compasses. If each aspect supports the others then the organisation can be said to be ‘organised’. As each of these aspects can be titled with a word beginning with S this list or web has become known as the 7S Model (Waterman, R. H. Peters, T. J. and Philips, J. R. (1980) Structure is not organisation. Business Horizons. June. Foundation for the School of Business, Indiana University.)

The constituent parts of the 7S Model are:

  • Strategy: plan or course of action leading to the allocation of an organisation’s finite resources to reach identified goals.
  • Structure: salient features of the organisational chart (e.g. degree of hierarchy, extent of centralisation/decentralisation) and interconnections within the organisation.
  • Systems: procedures and routine processes, including how information moves around the organisation.
  • Staff: personnel categories within the organisation, e.g. academics, administrators, technicians.
  • Style: characterisation of how key managers behave in order to achieve the organisation’s goals.
  • Shared values: the significant meanings or guiding concepts that an organisation imbues in its members.
  • Skills: distinctive capabilities of key personnel and the organisation as a whole.

The 7S Model can be used in two main ways.

Firstly, the strengths and weaknesses of an organisation can be identified by considering the links between each of the Ss. None of the S components is a strength or a weakness in its own right; it is only its degree of support, or otherwise, for the other Ss which is relevant. Any Ss which harmonise with all the other Ss can be thought of as strengths, any dissonances as weaknesses.

The image below can be used to undertake this cross-analysis. In each box the action that needs to be taken to align the two elements is recorded. Click on the image to view the 7S Model template.

7S template
7S template

Secondly, the model highlights how a change made in any one of the Ss will have an impact on all of the others. Thus if a planned change is to be effective, then changes in one S must be accompanied by complementary changes in the others.

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Published: 6 April 2008 | Last updated: 8 November 2012