The 10 must-have building blocks of a successful business in the 21st century
Business Essentials

The 10 must-have building blocks of a successful business in the 21st century
Systems, structures, strategy and other elements that require optimisation

S10 – the big picture

The factors that determine organisational effectiveness are many, and the SHAPE Survey drills deep into the people aspects of this, providing guidance to employees, team- and middle-managers, as well as the executives of the company.

There are however a range of other big picture, company-wide factors that are integral to the success of any organisation. McKinsey referred to these in their famous 7S Framework. At SHAPE, we’ve broadened these to cover some additional factors. We now have the S10.

These 10 factors, all integral to successful business performance, tend to be within the sphere of influence of senior management, however senior managers rarely receive feedback regarding how employees view the S10 aspects of the organisation which employs them.

Management may feel their business strategy is sound (they should, they designed it!) and that the business is therefore on a sustainable footing. But what if grassroot employees are of a different opinion, that would be handy to know, to understand, and respond to.

The framework

S10 includes the following items:

  1. __S__ystems (the right processes to get the job done - HR, IT, Sales, Marketing, Operations, etc.)
  2. __S__trategy (the right plan to build/maintain a competitive advantage)
  3. __S__tructure (the right "organisational structure" – flat or hierarchical - who reports to whom - roles and responsibilities)
  4. __S__ustainability (is the business futureproof?)
  5. __S__hared values (the right culture and organisational values)
  6. Management __S__tyle (the right approach to managing the business and its people)
  7. Competitive __S__alaries (pay scales at or above industry norms)
  8. __S__kills (the right expertise and competencies of employees)
  9. __S__taff (the right people)
  10. __S__upport (adequate levels of support for staff - training, resources and management support)

These 10 constructs are often refered to as “hard” (items 1-4) and “soft” (items 5-10) with soft elements focused on people aspects of the business.


There is little doubt that these factors are absolutely pivotal in terms of organisational performance. In a 2017 study, researchers found that 75.3% of the variation in the performance between organisations could be accounted for by the dimensions of the 7S framework__¹__.

According to the architects of the model, Waterman and Peters, it can be used by following five steps: The first step involves identification of those elements of the framework which do not align properly – i.e. does the business strategy support sustainability? It also involves assessing the inconsistencies in the relationships between all the elements. The second step is concerned with determination of optimal design – what is the ideal structure? This optimal design will be different for different organisations. The third step involves deciding the course of action or the changes which are required. The fourth step is the actual implementation of the change and the final stage is the review of the framework.

The appeal of the model rests largely with the fact that it covers all the crucial elements of business strategy and can act equally well as a template for a small startup business or a longstanding corporate monolith.

__¹__Njeru, W., Archives of Business Research – Vol.5, No.6 Publication.

Business Essentials