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The Seven-S Model


The Seven-S framework was one of the first models of organizational assessment to be popularized almost twenty years ago. It is included here for historical reasons and to give readers a sense of the direction and design of earlier frameworks.

It was one of the first of the popular frameworks to incorporate a holistic or 'systems' perspective in which the interrelationships of the key components are seen to determine overall system performance. It was also one of the first popular models to give sustained attention to organizational 'software', such as human behavioral factors as part of a systematic approach to organizational assessment.

However, it focuses more on activities inside the organization rather than outside, giving little attention to two other 'Ss' - stakeholders and setting (or context). It is more useful for description than prescription; it offers no guidance on the 'how' of organizational change, or what might be called 'sequencing' or the 10thS.  Nor does it deal with a wide variety of organizational issues such as sustainability, access to financing, power and control, clients and beneficiaries and many others.

Still, the Seven-S can be useful in the early stages of an analysis given its simple user-friendly framework.

Outline of the Approach

The 'Seven-S' model as the name implies, looks at the following seven variables:

  1. Structure: the formal and informal allocation of tasks and responsibilities
  2. Strategy: the crafting of the organization mission and its niche in the market place
  3. Skills: the individual and organizational abilities
  4. Style: the culture and behavior of the organization
  5. Staff: the nature of the people in the organization
  6. Shared values: the espoused and actual belief system
  7. Systems: the processes inside the organization

Find out More

Look for the 1981 book called "The Art of Japanese Management," by Richard Tanner Pascale and Anthony Athos. An analysis and description of this model can also be found in the book "In Search for Excellence," by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, published in 1982, also available in other languages than English.

In its sourcebook entitled "Promoting Institutional and Organisational Development: A Source Book of Tools and Techniques" (2003), the UK Department for International Development (DfID) also provides an interesting scheme to describe the Seven-S Model and a list of key example questions to use it.  Click here to access the concerned pages.