Mckinsey 7S Framework explained

McKinsey 7S Framework - Toolshero

McKinsey 7S Framework: this article explains practically the McKinsey 7S Framework which was developed by former McKinsey employees. Next to what this theory is, this article also highlights the soft and hard elements of the framework and an example of an company. After reading this article you will understand the basics of this management analysis tool. Enjoy reading!

What is the McKinsey 7S Framework? The theory

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 or McKinsey 7S Framework provides this understanding.

The McKinsey 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.

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The McKinsey 7S Framework is a 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 McKinsey 7S Framework

In the McKinsey 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.

McKinsey 7S Framework, the elements - Toolshero

Figure 1 – the soft and hard elements of the McKinsey 7s Framework

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

Hard elements

1. Strategy

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

2. Structure

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

3. Systems

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

Soft elements

4. Style

Style is all about leadership and management styles.

5. 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.

6. Skills

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

7. Staff

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

Application of the McKinsey 7S Framework

The McKinsey 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 McKinsey 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?

McKinsey 7S Framework with company example

A practical example regarding the use of the the McKinsey 7S Framework is a commercial training institute that focuses on employees who want to obtain an MBA degree.


The commercial education provider is fully focused on adult MBA education. They offer a series of courses and aim to be largest provider in the Netherlands.


Given the size of the organisation, it is important that there is a proper structure, and so a product classification has been made; each branch has its own training managers, representatives and subject teachers. This hierarchy is clear to both employees and students. In addition, there are many supporting departments such as ICT, administration and planning.


The organisation uses an internal Customer Relationship Management system to keep up-to-date with student progress, contracts and internship agreements. Students have an online learning environment that is linked to the internal system so that everyone is aware of the student’s well-being.


The organisation was founded 10 years ago by a passionate pioneer and has a friendly and open atmosphere right from the beginning. As a leader, he considers it important that work is done according to procedures and legislation, but everyone can further determine their own goals and are thus self-governing. This creates a pleasant working environment and a good mutual understanding.

Shared values

You are friendly to one another within the organisation, birthdays are celebrated with cake and a small gift, drinks every Friday afternoon and a teacher’s day twice a year. The student always remains top priority, both in and outside the office.


The organisation only works with teachers who have made their mark in the industry; as representatives, they can present study material very well. Employees are expected to know the exact guidelines issued by the Ministry of Education and how to integrate them into the lesson program.


In addition to skills, it is also important that the staff knows what their responsibilities are and dare to take it. Problems in class or with individual students must be reported to the head office in order to cooperatively find a solution.

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It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Is the McKinsey 7S Framework 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 McKinsey 7S Framework set up?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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.

How to cite this article:
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Original publication date: 10/18/2010 | Last update: 05/08/2023

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Vincent van Vliet
Article by:

Vincent van Vliet

Vincent van Vliet is co-founder and responsible for the content and release management. Together with the team Vincent sets the strategy and manages the content planning, go-to-market, customer experience and corporate development aspects of the company.


One response to “Mckinsey 7S Framework explained”

  1. Ravi Bhushan says:

    Wonderful thought, which can be scheduled by most of pharmaceutical company as module for analysing current status and planning future goals

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