Business Diagnostic Questions
"Seven S" Model Framework
The "Seven S" model was described briefly by Peters and Waterman in their book, In Search of Excellence. It describes a way to analyze a company or organization and it encourages systems thinking. I have found it a valid analytical framework. However, to make it a more useful tool, one needs to add some specific questions to the framework. The questions below are mine; feel free to use them. While one can easily add to the list of questions in each category, I think I have given you a good start. For those of you interested in teaching the systems thinking that goes with this model, a good case to use is the "Taco Bell Case," from the Harvard Business School (case number 9-692-058). The case documents a significant set of successful changes at Taco Bell, and illustrates almost all of the elements below.
- Describe to me the key factors in your business/organization's environment that are impacting the company now and that you expect to impact the company in the future.
- supplier issues
- labor issues
- customer demands
- financial expectations
- If the business/organization were operating almost perfectly, describe the key things that would be happening.
- If I were invisible and walked through the organization, what would I see that contributed to this success?
- If I were invisible and could sit in on a number of conversations between the top 10 people and their staff, what themes would I hear?
- If this organization were wildly successful, where would it be in 10 years?
- If you were thinking of selling this successful business/organization, how would you want to be able to describe it to prospective buyers?
- How would you describe the mission of this company to your prospective buyers?
- What are the main strategies in moving this organization to being more successful?
- What are the key short-term goals to achieve these strategies?
- What are the main constraints in executing these strategies?
- How confident are you that these strategies are the right ones?
- Why should your customers be committed to your company?
- What is the value proposition you offer your customers?
- Low total cost, operational excellence
- Superior Products, cutting edge innovation
- Customer Intimacy, i.e. services tailored to customer's unique needs
- How would your customers evaluate you as an organization? How do you know that?
- How have you communicated these strategies to your top people and the rest of the organization?
- Show me an organization chart, or draw me one.
- Describe the roles of the main departments.
- What kinds of role/turf issues occur between departments?
- What kinds of communications issues occur between departments?
- What key things are done in the organization to help integrate various functions and departments that are interdependent?
- How does the structure help/hinder this organization in accomplishing its strategy? What is being done about this now?
- Inquire about:
- spans of control
- use of teams
- the number of management layers
- alignment mechanisms
- Describe the strengths and weaknesses of the organization's key people.
- Describe their most important roles in the organization.
- Who of these are most important to the success of the business/organization? Why?
- What are you most concerned about regarding the quality of the key staff? Why?
- Describe the strengths and weaknesses of the organization's labor force.
- What are you most concerned about regarding the quality of the organization's labor force? Why?
- What is being done about this now?
- Describe key systems that support the business/organization, discuss their strengths and weaknesses.
- reward systems
- control/information systems
- customer feedback
- purchasing/supplier relations
- manufacturing systems
- identify customer needs
- measure quality
- What are the 5 most important system problems that if solved or improved would significantly improve profitability or organizational effectiveness? Why?
- What are you doing about these issues now?
- What key knowledge and skills are needed to succeed in this business/organization? Why?
- How is that expected to change over time?
- How would you assess the organization's current strengths and weaknesses against the needed knowledge and skills?
- What challenges does the organization face in strengthening or maintaining this match between knowledge and skills needed now and in the future?
- What is the organization doing about these issues now?
- How are important decisions made in this organization?
- How does top management communicate with key staff? How does it communicate with the labor force?
- What are the key expectations for how your key people and labor force should behave?
- How would you describe the organization's style of management? How would others differ in their assessment of that style?
- What does top management do on a day to day basis to:
- reinforce standards
- emphasize quality
- encourage teamwork
- encourage reasonable risk
- clarify roles/responsibilities
- focus people on goals
- emphasize customers
- Why should employees want to be truly committed to the long term well being of this organization?
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