top of page

Weisbord's 6 Box Model

Weisbord's 6 Box Model

Weisbord's 6 Box Model

Use this framework to assess company strengths and weaknesses

This framework is used to assess the efficient functioning of an organisation.

Organisational development is the study of systems within an organisation with the goal of improving them in some way. Marvin Weisbord, a consultant, proposed a framework with six boxes that describe the efficient functioning of a company. An analysis of a company’s performance in each of the boxes shows where improvements are needed.

Surrounding the company is an environment made up of customers, regulations, neighbours etc. It is within this environment that the six boxes have to operate.

Each of the six boxes plays a role in the performance of a company. The boxes have things feeding into them such as resources and money and feeding out of them such as products and services. Within the boxes there are likely to be formal ways of doing things and these may contrast with the day-to-day informal ways of practically making things happen. It is necessary to look at each box in turn and determine how efficiently it is working.

1. Purpose: the starting point of the assessment is to determine what business the company is in and whether there are any expected changes in the future. In effect, this is a vision for the company.

2. Structure: next we look at how the company is organised. This part of the analysis covers who does what in the various departments of the organisation.

3. Relationships: companies are made up of people and their relationships with each other within an organisation and with customers and suppliers are vital to its success.

4. Rewards: people need to be motivated by appropriate rewards not just in money but in the recognition they receive for the job they do.

5. Leadership: this is another vital component of every company. Leadership qualities need to be tailored to suit a company. Leadership styles may vary but they all require trust.

6. Helpful mechanisms: this is the"lubrication" that helps an organisation operate efficiently. In today's companies this helpful mechanism is technology and this could change rapidly over time.

There is much flexibility in the Weisbord framework. Boxes can be looked at insolation or as a system that drives the efficiency of the company. A quick analysis of each box may point to an aspect of the business that needs a deeper dive.

In 2008 Robert Preziosi developed a questionnaire to be used with Weisbord's framework. This questionnaire asks members of staff to agree or disagree with 35 statements. The answers show how well each box performs and where improvements are needed.

Today there are a number of online templates that make the application of the six box model relatively easy. Nevertheless there is much work to do in obtaining the data for each box.

The framework recognises that a company sits within an external environment. However there is no guidance as to how to analyse the relationship between the company and these external forces. This is where alternative frameworks such as PEST analysis and SWOT analysis could be useful.

The Weisbord framework has found considerable appeal amongst consultants. It is a tool to systematically analyse what needs fixing within an organisation. It can also be used by managers within the company, considering the company as a whole or just looking at the efficiency of individual departments.

The key to Weisbord’s framework is recognising that companies have formal systems and these are necessary because they show what work has to be done and what system should be used to do it. Each of the six boxes will have formal systems. As we all know, company rules and formal systems are frequently modified by staff who have their own informal and sometimes better ways of working. The gap between the formal and informal systems is important especially if the work to be done is not being done properly. For example, a company may have a human resources department that has laid out lines of authority showing who answers to whom. There will be times when the lines of authority don't work because somebody isn't available. Companies have ways of working round such blockages. This is all well and good and may work most of the time. It is important however to ensure that it doesn't become the norm, especially if in doing so quality, safety or some other important measure is compromised. Weisbord is always looking to see the degree of fit between the formal system and the informal system within the company.

Organisational change is now the norm. Sometimes it is obvious that change is required. Maybe things just aren't working. Sometimes it isn't so obvious. Staff may be constantly locked up in too many meetings and actions are being delayed. This may suggest that there is a gap between the formal systems in an organisation and the informal systems that make things happen and present an opportunity for a Weisbord analysis.

External forces may also demand organisational changes. Regulatory changes in the market, new competitors, developments in overseas markets may all require management to look at the organisation and make changes.

Some things to think about:

  • Does your organisation feel like it needs a health check?

  • Are there particular areas of your organisation that can readily be identified as needing attention?

  • How are the failings or weaknesses in one part of your organisation impacting on other parts?

  • Who should carry out the analysis of your organisation – should external people be brought into do the job?

  • Would the Weisbord six box framework be appropriate for the analysis?

Coded buttons

bottom of page