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The McKinsey 7-S Framework: What Is It?

It can be a confusing task to decipher how to manage your firm. Business is intricate and unrelenting. It is filled with complexities that are notoriously difficult to navigate, constant issues that have to be solved, and employees that have to be cared for.

Changes are constant and managing change can be an incredibly difficult task to accomplish.

That’s why businesses need frameworks to function more smoothly, so they can make these tough tasks seems more straightforward to achieve.

A framework provides a structure for thinking about something. It helps to categorize and simplify information so that it is easier to understand and draw logical conclusions from. It seems a no-brainer to implement for any business.

The McKinsey 7-S Framework is a tool that can be used to help organizations achieve better alignment and improve performance. In this article, we will discuss what the framework is, its history, how it can be used, and some of its pros and cons.

Let’s get going!

What is The McKinsey 7-S Framework and Where Did It Originate From?

The McKinsey 7-S Framework was created in the early 1980s. It is a tool used to help organizations achieve better alignment and improve performance.

The framework was first introduced by management consultants Robert H. Waterman Jr. and Tom Peters of the firm McKinsey & Company.

It is based on the premise that there are seven factors, or elements, that must be aligned in order for an organization to function properly and achieve desired results.

The framework was designed to help organizations deal with the challenges of managing change. It has been used by businesses of all sizes in a variety of industries.

However, the 7-S Framework is not just for businesses undergoing change. It can be used in any type of organization as a way to ensure that all seven elements are aligned and working together.

It categorizes seven internal factors that are important for any organization to consider:

  1. Strategy
  2. Structure
  3. Systems
  4. Shared values
  5. Style
  6. Staff
  7. Skills

Each letter in the acronym “7-S” corresponds to one of these factors. The framework is intended to be used as a tool to help organizations assess and improve their overall effectiveness.

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The 7 Factors: A Detailed Analysis

Now that we’ve laid out the 7 factors that make up the McKinsey 7-S Framework — let’s go through each factor in further detail.


The first factor, strategy, refers to the long-term plans and direction of an organization. An organization’s strategy should be aligned with its mission and goals.

A well-defined and executed strategy can give an organization a competitive advantage in the marketplace. It is important to note that an organization’s strategy should be flexible and adaptable to changing conditions.

Let’s talk through an example:

Imagine you are the CEO of a company that manufactures and sells bicycles. In order to increase sales, you decide to expand your product line to include electric bikes. This is an example of a change in strategy.

Your new electric bikes are a hit! Sales go through the roof and you decide to open new stores in different parts of the country. However, after a few months, you start to notice that sales are beginning to decline.

What happened?

It turns out that the market for electric bikes is seasonal. People tend to buy them more in the spring and summer when they can take advantage of the nice weather.

In order to boost sales, you decide to offer discounts and promotions during the off-season. This is an example of how an organization’s strategy can be adapted to changing conditions.


This refers to the way in which an organization managed. An organization’s structure should be aligned with its strategy.

There are different types of organizational structures that organizations can use. The type of structure that an organization chooses should be based on its specific needs and goals.

Here are some common types of organizational structures:

  • Functional structure: This type of structure groups employees together by function. For example, all the marketing employees would be in one group, all the sales employees would be in another group, etc.
  • Divisional structure: A divisional structure groups employees together by product or service line. For example, all the employees who work on bicycles would be in one group, all the employees who work on electric bikes would be in another group, and so on.
  • Matrix structure: This structure combines both functional and divisional structures. In a matrix organization, employees report to both a functional manager and a divisional manager.


Systems refer to the formal and informal procedures, processes, and routines that an organization has in place. They are the nuts and bolts of how an organization operates on a day-to-day basis.

Effective systems can help to improve efficiency and productivity. They can also help to ensure that quality standards are met. Ineffective or outdated systems can lead to waste, inefficiency, and errors.

Shared Values

Shared values are the core beliefs and principles that guide an organization’s actions. They should be reflected in the organization’s culture and how it does business.

They help to create a sense of identity and purpose within an organization. They can also help to build trust and commitment among employees and other stakeholders.


This refers to the leadership style of an organization. An organization’s style is determined by the values and beliefs of its leaders.

Style can have a profound impact on an organization. The right leadership style can inspire employees and help an organization to achieve its goals. The wrong leadership style can lead to frustration and stagnation.


This factor is fairly self-explanatory — it refers to the people who work for an organization. An organization’s staff is its most important asset. The right mix of talent and skills can help an organization and its employees to achieve their goals.

The wrong mix of talent and skills can lead to problems. It is important to carefully select and train employees so that they have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform their jobs effectively.


It’s vital for an organization’s employees to have a wide range of competencies, in order for the company as a whole to be successful.

Organizations should assess the skills of their employees and identify any gaps. They should then develop plans to fill those gaps. Training and development programs are one of the most popular options to help employees acquire the necessary skills.

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McKinsey 7-S Framework: The Benefits

There are several advantages of using the McKinsey 7-S Framework. Let’s discuss each of these in further detail below:

1. It is a Comprehensive Framework

One of the main advantages of the McKinsey 7-S Framework is that it is comprehensive. The framework takes into account all aspects of an organization, from strategy and structure to systems and style.

This makes it an ideal tool for organizations looking to get a big-picture view of their business.

2. It is Easy to Use

Another advantage of the McKinsey 7-S Framework is that it is easy to use. The framework is simple and straightforward, and can be applied to any organization regardless of size or industry.

3. It can be Used for Multiple Purposes

The McKinsey 7-S Framework is not just a tool for assessing an organization’s effectiveness. It can also be used to help organizations develop new strategies, or to troubleshoot problems with existing ones.

4. It Helps Organizations to Focus on the Right Things

It helps organizations to focus on the right things. By taking into account all aspects of the business, the framework ensures that no important factors are overlooked.

5. It is Flexible

A key advantage of the McKinsey 7-S Framework is that it is flexible.

The framework can be adapted to fit the specific needs of any organization. This makes it an ideal tool for businesses of all sizes and industries.

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McKinsey 7-S Framework: The Drawbacks

While there are many advantages of using the McKinsey 7-S Framework, there are also some disadvantages that should be considered:

1. It Requires a Lot of Time and Effort to Implement

One disadvantage of the McKinsey 7-S Framework is that it requires a lot of time and effort to implement properly. The framework must be carefully applied in order to yield accurate results, which can be time-consuming.

2. It can be Overly Complex

Another disadvantage of the McKinsey 7-S Framework is that it can be overly complicated. The framework takes into account a large number of factors, which can make it difficult to understand and apply.

3. It May Not be Suitable for all Organizations

The McKinsey 7-S Framework may not be suitable for all organizations. Some businesses may find that the framework is too comprehensive, while others may find it too simplistic.

As with any tool, it is important to consider whether or not the McKinsey 7-S Framework is right for your organization before using it.

When To Use the McKinsey 7-S Framework

The framework can be used in a variety of situations, such as:

  • When an organization is experiencing problems with unclear goals or ineffective communication;
  • When an organization wants to assess its current state;
  • When an organization is considering making changes (e.g., new strategy, structure, etc.) and wants to ensure that all factors are taken into account.

How To Use the McKinsey 7S Framework Effectively

There are two steps in using the McKinsey 7S Framework:

  1. Assessing your current situation
  2. Determining what changes need to be made

In the first step, you will need to gather data on each of the seven factors. This can be done through interviews, surveys, and other research methods. Once you have this data, you can then begin to analyze it and look for areas of improvement.

In the second step, you will need to develop a plan for making changes in your organization.

This plan should take into account all seven factors and how they interact with one another. It is important to remember that changes in one area may have an impact on other areas, so do consider all factors when making changes.

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The Bottom Line

The McKinsey 7S Framework can be a helpful tool in ensuring that your organization is effective and aligned.

Once you have developed your plan, you can then begin to implement it.

However, it is important to remember that no framework is perfect and there are always trade-offs to be made.

So: do your due diligence, check over the factors, and see whether this framework suits your firm best.