The seven S framework

The seven S Framework is a model that shows seven factors that are closely interlinked and work together to shape organisational effectiveness.

The seven S are:

  1. Structure – how the organisation is coordinated, which parts are more important and where emphasis is placed
  2. Strategy – the organisational approach to changes in the external environment; this includes allocation of resources and is related to customers, competition and the environment itself
  3. Systems – procedures and processes that define how work is performed, enabling the organisation to operate
  4. Skills – the main capabilities of the organisation and its people
  5. Staff – the quantity of and types of people that exist within the organisation
  6. Style – the cultural approach of the organisation and its managers in getting things done
  7. Shared values – the central part of the model, upon which everything else is hinged, this refers to central ideas and attitudes.

The top three factors are thought of as ‘hard’, while the others are ‘soft’. These elements are combined for success.

What is it used for?

This tool is used for

  • Assessing the potential for success of the organisation
  • Analysing why organisations are ineffective
  • Prioritising what is important at any given time
  • Coordinating all organisational attributes toward goals and deciding how to manage situations of change.

It is thought that if all seven elements are working together, the organisation will be more effective. If any of the factors are not connected, the organisation will not be as successful as it could be.

Any of the elements could be a force that is driving change within an organisation. Arguably, systems change is one of the most important areas, because all of the other areas can be changed but, if the systems are not adapted, then the organisation will fail to be effective.

How do I use it?

If using the model to plan organisational change, list all the S’s on a piece of paper and think about the change that you have planned. Consider what will need to change in each of the areas for the transition to be effective. This will help you to take a broader and all encompassing approach towards the change.

If assessing organisational effectiveness, do the same thing, but consider whether all of the factors are linked up. You may find that it is easier to identify problems and adjust resource allocation accordingly to become more efficient.

What are its limitations?

One of the biggest limitations of this model is that it does not effectively consider external factors that may be important in the success of companies. It is too inwardly focused. It assumes that if you get all of the seven factors right then you will be more effective, but it does not take into account what is happening outside the organisation. For example, a new government policy could seriously impede what you are trying to do.

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