Friday, December 7, 2012

Enduring Ideas: Understanding Your Organization

By Virgil R. Carter

What makes organizations what they are?  Why are some organizations radically different than other organizations?  As a CEO or senior staff executive, it’s up to you to understand and help lead your organization—but how do you do it?  Are you responsible for a specific outcome in your organization, for example, innovation and constructive change?  Are you thinking of a career change?  Perhaps you’re considering an organizational change, and are thinking about how to find an organization aligned with your own experience and values. 

If you fit any of these situations, a McKinsey Quarterly article may be interesting.  “A Watershed in Thinking About Organizations” is an April 2008 McKinsey article that revisits their 7-S Framework, introduced in the 1970s.  The interactive article, the first in a series, “reflects on 7-S…introduced…to address the critical role of coordination, rather than structure, in organizational effectiveness.”  Readers can click on any of the seven elements in the framework and listen to McKinsey’s description of the element.
The article can be found here: 

The article goes on to note “While an increasingly complex business environment has rendered some (organizational) models obsolete, others have endured.”  McKinsey says the series presents “frameworks that are as relevant today as they were when first created.”

The 7-S framework “maps seven interrelated factors that influence an organization’s ability to change—shared values, skills, staff, strategy, style and systems—and shows how these forces interact”.  The framework suggests that achieving progress in any one part of the framework “will be hard to achieve without progress in the others.”

The 7-S framework provides an excellent model for evaluating and understanding an organization.  And it provides a useful method for analysis of one’s preferred individual leadership traits.

Here’s an illustration of the 7-S framework:

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