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A business model that provides a “health check”

In 1980 Bob Waterman, Tony Athos, Richard Pascale and Tom Peters, a mix of McKinsey consultants and academics, hid themselves away in what Peters referred to as a two-day séance and arrived at the 7-S framework. In the same year, Peters, Waterman and Phillips wrote an article called Structure Is Not Organization that introduced the McKinsey 7Ss framework. Tom Peters, and Robert Waterman developed this further in 1982 in their book, In Search Of Excellence.

The seven elements all begin with the letter S and so the model is known as the McKinsey 7S framework. Three of the seven elements of the model are referred to as hard elements. They are called hard elements because they are easier to define and management can affect them directly. They are strategy, structure and systems.


Alongside these hard elements are four soft elements. These soft elements are so-called because they are less tangible, more influenced by culture but just as important. In fact, because they are harder to identify, they are harder to copy by the competition and so can be important in giving the company a competitive advantage. They are skills, style, staff and shared values. All the elements are interrelated so that the change in performance in any one of the components will influence another.

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The 7S tool has found favour among change consultants for providing a structure to:

  • Improve the performance of a company.

  • Account for the effects of changes within a company

  • Align departments and processes during a drive to greater efficiencies or following a merger or acquisition.

  • Work out how to implement a strategy.

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