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Week 39, 2020

The 7S Framework: Mutually Exclusive, Intrinsically Linked, and Continuously Realigned

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

1. Mutually Exclusive

The 7Ss was created by Tom Peters in the late 1970s and early 80s, during his time at McKinsey. And it forms the backbone of the book In Search of Excellence — Lessons from America’s Best Run Companies that he co-authored with Robert Waterman in 1982. The framework suggests organizations be broken down into 7 mutually exclusive parts: Strategy, Systems, and Structure (Hard Ss) and Staff, Skills, Style, and Shard Values (Soft Ss).

2. Intrinsically Linked

While the categories are mutually exclusive, they most certainly do not exist in a vacuum. As Peters writes in A Brief History of the 7S: “At its most powerful and complex, the framework forces us to concentrate on interactions and fit. The real energy required to re-direct an institution comes when all the variables in the model are aligned…Deal with all seven or accept the consequences.”

3. Continuously Realigned

What the 7S purports to help with is the continuous realignment of the 7 categories. It provides a shared understanding of what matters and why. And it requires that we ask tough questions about our organization. But it doesn’t provide any guidance in terms of what questions to ask. Nor does it help explain how to deal with potential problems if and when they appear. That is up to you, the practitioner, to figure out.



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Andreas Holmer

Designer, reader, writer. Sensemaker. Management thinker. CEO at MAQE — a digital consulting firm in Bangkok, Thailand.