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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.

Business Environment

  1. 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.
    • competition
    • economy
    • supplier issues
    • labor issues
    • regulations/taxes
    • customer demands
    • opportunities/threats
    • financial expectations
    • other

Shared Values

  1. 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?
  2. 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?

Strategy

  1. What are the main strategies in moving this organization to being more successful?
  2. What are the key short-term goals to achieve these strategies?
  3. What are the main constraints in executing these strategies?
  4. How confident are you that these strategies are the right ones?
  5. Why should your customers be committed to your company?
  6. 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?
  7. How have you communicated these strategies to your top people and the rest of the organization?

Structure

  1. Show me an organization chart, or draw me one.
  2. 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?
  3. How does the structure help/hinder this organization in accomplishing its strategy? What is being done about this now?
  4. Inquire about:
    • spans of control
    • use of teams
    • the number of management layers
    • alignment mechanisms

Staff

  1. Describe the strengths and weaknesses of the organization's key people.
    • Describe their most important roles in the organization.
  2. Who of these are most important to the success of the business/organization? Why?
  3. What are you most concerned about regarding the quality of the key staff? Why?
  4. Describe the strengths and weaknesses of the organization's labor force.
  5. What are you most concerned about regarding the quality of the organization's labor force? Why?
    • What is being done about this now?

Systems/Infrastructure

  1. 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
    • other
  2. What are the 5 most important system problems that if solved or improved would significantly improve profitability or organizational effectiveness? Why?
  3. What are you doing about these issues now?

Skills

  1. What key knowledge and skills are needed to succeed in this business/organization? Why?
  2. How is that expected to change over time?
  3. How would you assess the organization's current strengths and weaknesses against the needed knowledge and skills?
  4. What challenges does the organization face in strengthening or maintaining this match between knowledge and skills needed now and in the future?
  5. What is the organization doing about these issues now?

Style

  1. How are important decisions made in this organization?
  2. How does top management communicate with key staff? How does it communicate with the labor force?
  3. What are the key expectations for how your key people and labor force should behave?
  4. How would you describe the organization's style of management? How would others differ in their assessment of that style?
  5. 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
    • recognize/reward
    • emphasize customers
  6. Why should employees want to be truly committed to the long term well being of this organization?


Copyright © 2008 Richard M. DiGeorgio & Associates. All Rights Reserved.

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