An Overview of the McKinsey 7-S Model

The McKinsey 7-S model is a strategy tool for businesses striving for excellence and enhanced performance. It consists of seven interconnected elements:

  • Structure,
  • Strategy,
  • Systems,
  • Shared Values,
  • Skills,
  • Style, and
  • Staff.

Fundamentals of the McKinsey 7-S Model

The Hard Elements

First up, we have the “hard” components—Strategy, Structure and Systems. In this case, we’re talking hard in terms of these factors being more tangible and easier to identify.

  • Strategy: This is essentially your master plan. It determines the direction of the organization, outlines its approach to increase market share, attract more customers, and stay ahead of the competition.
  • Structure: The hierarchy, the tree, the pyramid – or whatever you like to call it. It’s all about who’s in charge of whom. It refers to the framework that defines the organizational arrangement, including departments, relationships, and employee interaction.
  • Systems: The operational processes or daily activities you use to get things done. We’re referring to those procedures, routines, and regulations that make everything tick.

The Soft Elements

Next, we’ve got the “soft” components – Shared Values, Skills, Style, Staff. These are less tangible, more influenced by culture, and can be a bit trickier to define.

  • Shared Values: These are the core beliefs and ethical standards that define your organization’s identity and provide the glue that binds all else together.
  • Skills: Not just individual abilities – we’re talking about those collective competencies that give your organization a competitive edge.
  • Style: This is how your leadership operates and the culture they create. We’re talking about whether your company prefers formal meetings or brainstorming sessions at the ping-pong table.
  • Staff: The human power driving your organization. It covers everything from the number of employees to the roles they play in helping your company achieve its ambitions.

The Alignment

The beauty of the McKinsey 7-S model is that it examines how these elements relate to one another. Each one doesn’t operate in a vacuum. They interact, they align, and they all contribute to the organization’s overall effectiveness. Let’s find out more…

The Components of the McKinsey 7-S Model


As you remember, the strategy forms the blueprint of actions for any organization and is the basis for steps to align company direction towards meeting customer needs and standing out amidst competitors.


The structure of the organization can be modified in accordance with the strategic goals. For example, if a company decides to focus on product development, teams may be established or restructured around different product lines. This allows for resources and skills in the company to be effectively utilized and fosters efficient communication and coordination within the team.


Existing systems in the organization, like the method of reporting or reward systems, are reevaluated and refined so they fit the new strategy and structure. For instance, a business aiming for innovation might include a reward system for employees who propose new ideas, thus encouraging innovative thinking and aligning with the strategic objectives.

Shared Values

Setting unified values across the organization is crucial. These values should resonate with everyone involved. For example, if the company values social responsibility, it may organize community service programs for employees to participate in, promoting solidarity within the organization, and adherence to the company’s core values.


Various training programs can be implemented aligning with the new strategy. For example, if a service provider decides to switch focus from being product-oriented to customer-oriented, the employees may need training in improved customer service, communication, and related skills.


Leadership style within the organization could be adjusted to reflect the strategic shift. For example, if the business strategy shifts towards innovation and creativity, a more democratic leadership style could encourage free thinking and idea sharing.


Personnel recruitment, selection, and development practices can be revised to fit the newly defined goals. A company moving towards a more digital approach might hire individuals with strong tech skills or provide technology training to existing staff.

Advantages and Limitations of the McKinsey 7-S Model

Advantages of the McKinsey 7-S Model

Comprehensive Examination

The model encourages a detailed look at seven critical aspects of an organization. It doesn’t just look at one part of your business, which could be a shortcoming of some other models. A holistic view is taken, which helps to get a broad understanding of how all elements tie together.

Balanced Approach

Equal importance is placed on “hard” (Strategy, Structure, Systems) and “soft” elements (Shared Values, Skills, Style, and Staff). This balance helps to ensure that all aspects of the organization are considered, highlighting the impact of human elements on organizational success.

Facilitating Change

The model guides leadership in strategizing and implementing organizational changes effectively. By showing how the seven elements interrelate, it’s easier to understand the potential impacts of change and to manage it carefully.

Identifying Gaps

The 7-S framework aids in revealing areas where your organization’s performance could improve. It enables the firm to identify inconsistencies between what the strategy is and how things are actually done.

Limitations of the McKinsey 7-S Model

Lack of Prioritization

Although encouraging a balanced look at the seven factors, the model doesn’t provide guidance on which aspect is more critical at any given time. It may lead organizations to spread resources too thinly.

Static Nature

The 7-S model looks at an organization at one point in time. It doesn’t account for the dynamic nature of the business environment. It’s not designed to predict future changes or guide strategic decision making in an evolving business landscape.

Limited External Focus

The model focuses largely on internal aspects of an organization. It doesn’t sufficiently consider external elements like competition, market trends, or economic factors which also impact the organization’s performance.

Subjective Analysis

Interpretation of the “soft” elements, like Style and Shared Values, can be highly subjective. Different people may have different understandings of these elements, which could affect the model’s application.

The McKinsey 7-S Model in Action

Here is a hypothetical scenario to explore how a firm could use the McKinsey 7-S Model. We’ll call our company “GreenTech Innovations,” a firm specializing in eco-friendly technology solutions.

Background of GreenTech Innovations

  • Industry: Green Technology and Sustainable Solutions
  • Size: Medium-sized enterprise
  • Market: Primarily serves customers in North America and Europe
  • Goal: To become a leader in sustainable technology by innovating eco-friendly products and services.

Applying the McKinsey 7-S Model

1. Strategy

  • Current Strategy: GreenTech focuses on developing high-quality, sustainable products with a commitment to reducing environmental impact.
  • 7-S Application: The firm needs to align its strategy with emerging market trends in sustainability, like renewable energy sources. They should also consider expanding to emerging markets and investing in R&D for next-generation green technologies.

Possible Outcomes and Usage:

  • Enhanced Market Positioning: By aligning its strategy with emerging sustainability trends and market needs, GreenTech can position itself as a leader in the green technology industry.
  • Increased Competitive Advantage: Investing in R&D for innovative technologies ensures GreenTech stays ahead of competitors and meets evolving consumer demands.

2. Structure

  • Current Structure: The company is organized functionally with separate departments for R&D, marketing, sales, and operations.
  • 7-S Application: To enhance innovation and cross-functional collaboration, GreenTech could consider a matrix structure. This would facilitate better communication and project management between departments.

Possible Outcomes and Usage:

  • Improved Collaboration and Efficiency: A matrix structure or other flexible organizational frameworks can enhance cross-departmental collaboration, leading to more innovative solutions and efficient project management.
  • Agility: A well-organized structure allows GreenTech to be more responsive to market changes and internal dynamics.

3. Systems

  • Current Systems: GreenTech has established systems for internal communication, project management, and customer relationship management.
  • 7-S Application: Implementing more advanced data analytics systems and CRM tools would help in understanding customer needs better and optimizing operations.

Possible Outcomes and Usage:

  • Data-Driven Decision Making: Advanced systems for data analytics enable GreenTech to make informed decisions, understand market trends, and tailor products to customer needs.
  • Operational Excellence: Optimizing CRM and project management systems helps streamline operations, enhancing customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

4. Shared Values

  • Current Values: Sustainability, innovation, customer focus, and quality.
  • 7-S Application: These values should be consistently communicated and integrated into every aspect of the business, from product development to marketing strategies.

Possible Outcomes and Usage:

  • Cohesive Corporate Culture: Embedding core values like sustainability and innovation in every aspect of the business ensures a unified corporate culture, which can drive brand loyalty and employee engagement.
  • Brand Reputation: Consistently practicing and communicating its values, GreenTech can strengthen its reputation as a socially responsible and customer-centric company.

5. Style

  • Current Leadership Style: The leadership at GreenTech is currently top-down.
  • 7-S Application: To foster innovation, a more participative leadership style could be encouraged, where employees at all levels are empowered to contribute ideas and feedback.

Possible Outcomes and Usage:

  • Enhanced Innovation: A participative leadership style encourages creativity and idea-sharing, fostering an environment where innovation thrives.
  • Employee Engagement and Satisfaction: When employees feel their ideas are valued, it boosts morale and job satisfaction, leading to higher productivity and retention.

6. Staff

  • Current Staffing: GreenTech employs a mix of experienced professionals and young talent.
  • 7-S Application: Investing in continuous training and development programs to keep staff updated with the latest in green technologies and sustainability practices. Also, focusing on hiring talent with a passion for sustainability.

Possible Outcomes and Usage:

  • Skill Development: Continuous training and development ensure that employees are skilled in the latest technologies and practices, keeping GreenTech at the forefront of the industry.
  • Attracting Talent: A focus on sustainability and innovation can attract top talent who are passionate about these areas, further enhancing the company’s capabilities.

7. Skills

  • Current Skills: Strong in R&D and technical expertise.
  • 7-S Application: To maintain a competitive edge, GreenTech needs to continually develop skills in emerging technologies and market analysis. Additionally, enhancing customer service and marketing skills would be beneficial.

Possible Outcomes and Usage:

  • Market Responsiveness: By continually developing skills in emerging technologies and market analysis, GreenTech can quickly adapt to market shifts and consumer preferences.
  • Customer-Centric Approach: Enhancing skills in customer service and marketing ensures the company effectively.


By addressing all seven elements of the McKinsey 7-S Model, GreenTech can ensure that its organizational components are aligned and moving towards the common goal of becoming a leader in sustainable technology.

This holistic approach not only enhances internal efficiencies and innovation capabilities but also strengthens the brand in the market, leading to sustainable growth and success.

A colorful diagram depicting the seven elements of the McKinsey 7-S model interconnected with arrows.

Comparative Study with Other Business Strategies

Having covered the McKinsey 7-S Model, it’s time now to compare it to other established business strategy models out there. By understanding the key differences and similarities, you’ll  choose the most appropriate model for your specific business situation or study.

SWOT Analysis

Focus: Here’s the thing, while our 7-S model provides a holistic and detailed way to view the internal workings of an organization, SWOT is much simpler and takes into account both internal (strengths and weaknesses) and external factors (opportunities and threats).

Facing Change: Recall the 7-S model helping organizations cope with change? SWOT Analysis can also help here but in more simpler terms. It allows organizations to capitalize on their strengths, improve their weaknesses, seize opportunities, and counteract threats.

Simplicity vs Complexity: Remember how I always stress getting the point across without making things too complicated? Here’s an analogy: If our 7-S Model is a gourmet meal, the SWOT Analysis is a quick snack. It’s easier to understand, but perhaps less detailed and comprehensive.

Porter’s Five Forces Model

External vs. Internal: Unlike the McKinsey 7-S Model, Porter’s Five Forces Model focuses more on the external competitive environment. It reviews industry competition, potential of new entrants, power of suppliers, power of customers, and threat of substitutes. The internal focus of the 7-S model and the external focus of Porter’s model can complement each other quite well.

Industry View: Porter’s model takes a broader industry perspective, while the 7-S model drills down on the organization. For an all-encompassing approach, using both models might offer the most insights.

Strategy Design: Porter’s model generally helps the business to create competitive strategies based on the industry’s conditions, while the 7-S model can help to implement and align the strategies effectively.

The Balanced Scorecard

Measurement: This tool primarily focuses on setting and measuring company objectives. It looks at four perspectives – Financial, Customer, Internal Processes, and Learning & Growth.

Goal Tracking: Unlike the McKinsey 7-S Model’s focus on aligning all factors for peak performance, the Balanced Scorecard keeps an eye on achieving specific goals within the above-mentioned areas.

Objective-Driven: The Balanced Scorecard is well, balanced! It is efficient in ensuring that all business aspects are equally contributing to achieving the company’s strategic objectives.

Image description: A visual representation of a comparison between the McKinsey 7-S Model and other business strategy models.


What is the McKinsey 7-S Model?
The McKinsey 7-S Model is a management framework that describes seven factors to organize a company effectively: strategy, structure, systems, shared values, style, staff, and skills.

Who created the 7-S Model?
The model was developed in the late 1970s by consultants Tom Peters and Robert Waterman at McKinsey & Company.

What is the purpose of the 7-S Model?
The purpose is to analyze how well a company is positioned to achieve its goals and to identify areas needing improvement for organizational effectiveness.

How does the 7-S Model help businesses?
It helps businesses by providing a holistic approach to organizational analysis, ensuring all critical areas of the organization are aligned and contributing effectively to its overall strategy.

Can the 7-S Model be used for any size of business?
Yes, it’s versatile and can be applied to small, medium, and large businesses across various industries.

What does ‘Shared Values’ refer to in the model?
Shared Values are the core beliefs and cultural aspects of the company that are evident in everything it does. They serve as the foundation for all other elements in the model.

How often should a company use the 7-S Model for analysis?
Regular use, such as annually or during major transitions, is recommended to ensure continuous alignment and effectiveness.

Is the 7-S Model still relevant today?
Yes, despite its age, the model remains relevant for modern businesses as it addresses timeless aspects of organizational structure and management.

Can the 7-S Model be integrated with other management models?
Absolutely, it can complement other models and strategies, providing a comprehensive framework for organizational analysis and development.

How does the 7-S Model facilitate change management?
It identifies areas that need to be realigned for effective change, ensuring that all aspects of the organization are moving in harmony towards new objectives.

What challenges might a company face when applying the 7-S Model?
Challenges can include resistance to change, aligning all seven elements simultaneously, and the need for continuous monitoring and adjustment.

How does the 7-S Model impact decision-making in a company?
It provides a structured approach to understand the organization’s current state, leading to more informed and strategic decisions.

Is the 7-S Model more suited for certain types of organizations?
While versatile, it is particularly beneficial for complex organizations and those undergoing significant changes or restructuring.

Can the 7-S Model help in mergers and acquisitions?
Yes, it’s an effective tool for analyzing how well two companies can integrate and align their strategies, cultures, and operational systems.

How does technology impact the application of the 7-S Model?
Technology influences the ‘Systems’ aspect of the model, and adapting to technological advances is crucial for maintaining the effectiveness of these systems.

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