Get free project management templates

The 7-S Framework: Project Management Remix

7-S for Project Management

I’m happy to be bringing you this article from Atif Shahab today, sponsored by TaskQue.

When it comes to project management things can move really quickly, and sometimes that means things get out of hand. When you’ve got a lot to do, ensuring that your project is aligned to your organisational goals becomes even more important – it’s too easy to let slip that strategic alignment that we have heard so much about in the project management press over the past year or so.

Staying on top of everything and staying aligned to the organisational goals is easier with the tools and techniques to help you.

This is where project management methodologies, models, techniques and task management software by TaskQue comes into play. They streamline your tasks and keep you on track to achieve success.

The 7-S Framework

One of those models is the 7-S framework, a tool that helps you understand the complexities of your organisation.

Introduced by thinkers at McKinsey in the 1970s, it was a revolutionary way of thinking about how organisations worked. Previously the focus had been on hierarchy and the physical structure of a firm. The 7-S model focused more on coordination, through a connected web of factors that affect how an organisation is able to work and change.

7-S for Project Management

The 7-S framework wasn’t designed with project management particularly in mind, but it is useful in determining how aligned your project goals are with your organisational goals and what needs to be done to improve the correlation further.

The framework breaks down into – surprise! – 7 categories, split into hard and soft elements. Let’s look at those with a particular focus on how they relate to project management.

Hard Elements

The hard elements cover three factors, Strategy, Structure and Systems.

Hard elements are easier to identify, define and understand for project managers because these factors hugely influence your projects. Everything from formal processes, strategies, reporting, organisational charts and IT systems falls under this category.

1. Strategy

Setting project objectives is not enough to achieve success. You should have a plan and strategy about how to be successful and how to achieve your objectives.

The project plan and strategy should be well documented and communicated to all team members. The project strategy should focus on how to build and maintain a competitive advantage over the competitors. Strategy can change with changes in situation and external environments: most likely your project sponsor and project board will steer your work here.

2. Structure

This element relates to who will report to whom. Organisational charts for your project and other related resource documents fall inside the Structure element of the 7-S model. Irrespective of the scope of the implementation, it is important that you and your team members are clear about who reports to whom.

3. Systems

The System element reflects how the tasks will be completed and what process will be followed. It covers areas related to business operations and the business of running projects.

As a project manager, you probably spend a lot of time removing bottlenecks for your team to ensure they can fulfil their responsibilities and achieve better results. That’s all systems work.

Soft Elements

There are four Soft elements: Shared Values, Style, Staff and Skills. Soft elements are difficult to quantify and are heavily dependent on the organisational culture, making the much harder to put into practice successfully in a project environment.

4. Shared Values

Shared values are the first soft element that deals with organisational culture. It is the shared values that bind the project team together and foster cohesiveness and teamwork.

These characteristics runs deep down the organisation; companies never let go of them, no matter how grave the circumstances. Both the corporate culture and general work ethic also reflects shared values.

5. Style

This element relates to leadership style. The leadership style you adopt as a project manager will directly influence your team. It’s important that you select the style carefully [the situational leadership model will help here – Elizabeth] after assessing the situation to choose a response that will get the best out of the situation and the team members involved. Flex your leadership style as your project requires.

6. Staff

People are the most valuable assets of a company. Managing your staff efficiently and getting the best out of them is the core responsibility of a manager, and even project managers without line responsibility for their teams have a huge influence over the individuals involved in the project.

Get to know your team so that you can help them develop their skills and provide them with the opportunities where they can grow as a professional.

This will also help you in retaining your best talent and reducing the employee turnover rate.

7. Skills

Closely related to the previous point, the Skill element of the 7-S model focuses on the number of skills and levels of skills your team members have. Good project managers spend time with every individual to get to know them better and evaluate their skill levels.

That goes for you as well: project managers should invest in their own personal development through training programs, workshops, seminars and visits. In today’s dynamic and competitive world of project management, you should always look for opportunities to learn new things in order to compete with your competitors. Investing in development activities for yourself and your team can reap rewards in future and will help you in getting most out of your employees in the long run.

Theory is Only Useful if Implemented

It’s likely that these elements aren’t new to you, although the McKinsey framework might be. They all form part of the competencies expected of project managers.

The problem lies in implementation. Are you really using all these elements to help drive project success? Or did you just write about them in the Project Charter and then let the principles slip a little?

If you want to achieve your project goals (or any organisational goal), then it’s important that you focus both on the hard and soft elements of the 7-S framework, giving them all equal importance. Ignoring the soft elements in particular can wreak havoc on the chances of project’s success and will destroy the organisational culture.

About the author: Atif Shahab is a Senior Community Manager at task management software TaskQue. He is a fan of classic music and loves traveling with friends. When he is not doing anything, he looks after his plants in his homegrown garden and spends time with his pets. Stay connected with him on Twitter.

7-S for Project Management

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK and the award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.


The Shop

Check out my ebooks, template packs and other resources to help you get started and keep going on your projects
Shop now