Introduced in 1980s, this is one of oldest yet highly effective idea that must be implemented in order to reach success. The 7s consists of:
- Shared values
Before we start talking about them individually, the must first be understood as Hardware or Software elements. Strategy, structure and system are more like hardware elements that can be touched, physically seen, direct and sometimes easy to be influenced, and clearly identifiable. On the other hand are the Software elements; Shared values, style, skills and staff. These can be difficult to influence, are intangible and often hard to identify. Nevertheless, equally important. The most important thing to consider is that they are all internally linked with each other, like a web, with Shared values in the middle.
Let us now consider each one of them separately. First and foremost, is Strategy. Strategy related to the type of method a business chooses, e.g. how to gain competitive advantage over competition, how to increase profitability etc. It is the kind of tools the business wishes to use, the type of data it wants to evaluate etc.
Structure is the way the entire business hold itself. How the communication is made, how orders are given and who reports to who, all comes under the structure. The organization structure can be Hierarchal, which is a top down structure, has vertical communication and orders are sent from top to down. Matrix structure could be another, with both vertical and horizontal communication and instead of top down orders, it will be groups of workers, co-operating and brainstorming together to come up with solutions.
System is the type of set up the business has. It could be highly automated, semi-automated, manual etc. It also talks about business’s daily activities and how actions are taken. Often it is confused with structure; the structure is an outline which reveals the authority of one person over the other, however the system is how these people do the tasks, make decisions and implement them.
Style, as the word itself suggests, is the manner in which actions are taken. It often refers to how the managers and top leaders lead their teams. Autocratic, Democratic, Laissez Faire are 3 kinds of leaderships that can be taken under this segment. Sometimes It is chosen by the business, but most of the times it comes out naturally, as part of human nature itself.
Staff refers to the number and kind of employees the business has. The business could have a few skilled hands or many less skilled workers. Which is better? All depends on the business and its operational nature.
Skills is connected mainly with staff and leaders. It talks about the level of skills they have, but more importantly, the level of skills they have as per the requirement of the business.
Lastly, Shared Values which is perhaps the core idea of the 7s theory, talks about the ethical values and standards that sometimes guide and sometimes justify the reasons and effects of other 6s.
Just understanding them individually is simple enough. However, the main key to implement it and achieve success is alignment. Until all 7s are aligned together, where each complements the other, and each is suitable for the other, success will not be achieved. E.g. Generally it could be said that Matrix organizational structure is better than hierarchal structure, however, if the staff is less skilled and the system is more manual (that means not automated), then a hierarchal structure is much more suitable.