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The McKinsey 7S Model

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When looking to manage and improve a company, this popular model is intended to highlight how changing just one area is likely to be problematic: A company is a complex set of interrelated systems where each interacts with others. When you want to change the company, you may well need to change multiple factors at once, including both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ factors. The McKinsey 7S Model gained particular fame through Tom Peters’ early book ‘In Search of Excellence’.




Strategy includes the overall intent and approach of the organisation that influences all other decisions. The process of strategising can be very different, including a top-down vision deployment, a corporate strategic department and a highly devolved choice system. The problem with most strategy is that by the time it reaches the front line, it has been mutated and adapted so much that the sum of the actions will not achieve the original intent.

A good quality system will refer and compare frequently back to strategy, reviewing processes, culture and other factors back to the strategy with the constant question ‘Will all this achieve the overall strategic intent?’



The structure of the organisation includes the reporting lines and how departments and teams are made up. This can include tall and flat structures, close and separated units, and various other patterns of divisionalisation, staffing and interconnection. This is often the first port of call after strategy is decided, although all other areas should also be considered.

Quality in structure includes ensuring processes align with organisational boundaries and that ‘silos’ that lead to alignment problems are not created.



Systems include the processes and procedures, plus technology and other tools which are used throughout the organisation and in implementing the strategy. Systems and structure should be designed together, and certain not with structure before systems, as often happens.

Quality management often focuses on systems and is ‘home territory’. The key approach to quality in this extended system is to ensure all parts align.



Skills are a ‘soft’ part of the design. It is easy for a company to adopt a strategy for which it does not have enough skilled people to implement. This is one reason why training and constant learning is an important basic for today’s flexible organisation. Skills also include ‘organisational abilities’ which should be understood as strengths and weaknesses to be managed accordingly.

In a quality system, skills include the ability to produce quality products and deliver quality services, and training needs to include appropriate focus here.



The ‘staff’ of an organisation here means all the people. A diverse organisation has many people with many talents who are motivated and able to complete the jobs allocated and agreed with them.

The human side of quality is often underestimated, although gurus such as W. Edwards Deming was very clear about the importance of motivated, well-trained people who deeply understand quality throughout the company.



‘Style’ here is largely about culture and the overall approach that people tend to take towards working together. In particular it includes management style, such as how dictatorial or inclusive they are.

Whilst organisational management style can be tricky territory for a quality manager, Deming again had a great deal to day and his ’14 points for managers’ is largely about style.


Shared values

Shared values are the underlying beliefs, values and attitudes that drive all other actions, including the organisational culture and management style. Values are social rules and are powerful shapers of behaviour.

One of the things that a good quality manager can do is to live the values that lead to good quality throughout the organisation. This can require courage and determination, but done well can be remarkably powerful in creating a strong quality culture.


Next time: RACI


This article first appeared in Quality World, the journal of the Chartered Quality Institute


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