The McKinsey 7-S Framework

The McKinsey 7-S framework was developed by two consultants working for McKinsey & Company in the early 1980s. The authors believed that traditional organisational change models placed too much focus on structure and strategy, and the consequences of this were that other important elements of organisations were being neglected. They suggest a broader approach is required to minimise the chance of failure, highlighting that there are 7 interconnected elements that should be assessed; Strategy, Structure, Systems, Shared Values, Skills, Style and Staff. It is not only important to acknowledge and investigate these elements, but also to assess how they are aligned and interact with each other. A change occurring to one element will impact upon the others and therefore it is important to take into account all 7 elements, regardless of where the change is actually occurring. Below we have discussed the 7 elements in more detail.

McKinsey 7S Framework

Hard Ss:

Structure – The way in which activities are managed. A matrix or hierarchy diagram will often be used to represent how responsibility is distributed.

Strategy – The organisation’s plan for how to achieve their objectives. Strategies are set and distributed throughout the organisation, however they also respond to external factors.

Systems – Processes that have been put in place.

The 3 ‘Hard Ss’ are the easiest to identify and describe of all the elements. They are generally reported in the organisation’s official documents and are often referred to as the foundation of the organisation. Although change of the ‘Hard Ss’ is not easy, it can be done when senior figures make decisions. Traditionally, change initiatives will only take these factors into account, the McKinsey 7-S framework challenges this.

Soft Ss:

Style – This is the way things are done within the organisation. It may not be written down, but due to traditions and culture certain behaviours are repeated throughout many organisations.

Staff – This is not just the people within the organisation, but also their characteristics and how they are developed.

Skills – The competencies and capabilities of the organisation and its people.

Shared Values – These are the principles that determine the organisation’s behaviour.

When compared with the ‘Hard Ss’, these elements are far harder to define. This is because they are rarely officially written down and also are constantly evolving. Change in these areas can be more difficult and generally takes longer.

The diagram shows ‘Shared Values’ to be in the centre, this is because the author’s believe it is central to all other elements.

Situations where the tool would be useful:

-Identifying where organisational performance can be improved

-Determining the likely effects of a change initiative

-Aligning departments and processes when a merger or acquisition are taking place

-Deciding how best to execute a strategy

The McKinsey 7-S Framework is a relatively simple tool to help you determine which questions need to be asked during the change process. However, the framework does not answer these questions or outline how the change can be achieved. The tool is more useful for showing where change is necessary and what areas it is likely to impact.

McKinsey & Company. (2008). Enduring Ideas: The 7-S Framework. Available at (March 2008).