7S Framework by McKinsey

7S framework McKinsey - ToolsHero

This article explains practically the 7S Framework which was developed by former McKinsey employees. After reading this article you will understand the basics of this powerful and effective management tool.

What is the 7S Framework?

In order to be successful it is useful for every organization to have a good understanding of the internal organization and to find out how work can be done more effectively and efficiently.

The 7S Framework provides this understanding.

The 7S Framework was designed by former employees like Tom Peters, Richard Pascale and Robert Waterman jr, formers consultants of McKinsey, the American consulting firm and is applied in organizations all over the world.

The 7S in this diagnostic model refer to the seven elements or factors that start with the letter ‘S’.

According to Tom Peters, Richard Pascale and Robert Waterman jr, the condition is that the internal relationships between these elements are well-organized and that the elements steer the organization in the same direction.

The base of the 7S Framework

In the 7S Framework the so-called hard and soft elements are incorporated, in which hard elements aim at matters an organization can influence directly.

The soft elements are present in an organization in a more abstract way and can be found in the organizational culture.

The hard elements in the 7S Framework are Strategy, Structure and Systems; the soft elements are Style, Shared Values, Skills and Staff.

7S framework by Mckinsey - ToolsHero

In order to understand the 7S Framework better a brief explanation is given below.

Hard elements


By using mission and vision the organization’s objectives become clear. You can find these elements in the strategic planning of an organization.


How is the organization structured and which hierarchical layers are there.


Systems are all formal and informal methods of operation, procedures and communication flows.

Soft elements


Style is all about leadership and management styles.

Shared values

The standards and values and other forms of ethics within an organization in which vision, corporate culture and identity are the key elements.


These concern both the skills of the organization and those of the employees.


This soft element is about the employees, their competences and job descriptions.

Application of the 7S Framework

The 7S Framework is mainly used to trace performance problems in an organization to subsequently change and/or improve these.

With a blueprint or (photo) of these performance problems, several elements could be put to use in a targeted manner.

It is important in this to compare the present situation (IST) with the desired and future situation (SOLL).

The 7S Framework constitutes a good framework, in which possible gaps and inconsistencies between IST and SOLL can be traced and adjusted.

In practice

In practice a number of questions could be asked using the 7S Framework because of which a clear picture of the organization arises.

After having listed these questions, it is important to provide answers to a number of obstacles such as:

  • Is everyone within the organization supported in the area of the hard elements?
  • Are the hard elements sufficiently supported within the organization?
  • Where are the similarities and differences in the IST SOLL analysis?
  • Which means are necessary to bridge the identified discrepancies in this analysis?
  • How can a plan be realized and implemented as well as possible?

It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Is the 7S Framework by McKinsey applicable in today’s modern organizations? Do you recognize the practical explanation of the 7S Framework or do you have more suggestions? What are your success factors for the good 7S Framework set up?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. A Brief History of the 7-S (“McKinsey 7-S”) Model – Tom Peters blog post describing the origins of the 7S Framework.
  2. Bouzid, A. (2015). Applying Business Analysis Tools To Assess a Small business: Using the 7-S framework, the SWOT and the Balanced Scorecard Tools. Kindle Edition. Amazon Digital Services LLC.
  3. Schram, A. (2014). Leadership, Strategic Planning and Strategic Management for Higher Education Institutions in Developing Countries. In World Business and Economics Research Conference (pp. 24-25).
  4. Schwering, R. E. (2003). Focusing leadership through force field analysis: new variations on a venerable planning tool. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 24(7), 361-370.
  5. Waterman Jr, R. H., Peters, T., & Phillips, J. R. (1980). Structure is Not Organization. Business Horizons, 23(3), 14-26.

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