Extending McKinsey’s 7S model to understand strategic alignment in academic libraries

Publication Date10 Jun 2019
AuthorAndrew Martin Cox,Stephen Pinfield,Sophie Rutter
SubjectLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,HR in libraries,Library strategy,Library promotion
Extending McKinseys 7S model
to understand strategic alignment
in academic libraries
Andrew Martin Cox and Stephen Pinfield
Information School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, and
Sophie Rutter
University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to conceptualise the issues of alignment for changing academic
libraries by using and extending McKinseys 7S model.
Design/methodology/approach Theoretical work was conducted to consider and extend the 7S model
for the situation of academic libraries. Empirical data were then used to confirm the value of these extensions
and suggest further changes. The data to support the analysis were drawn from 33 interviews with librarians,
library and non-library academics and experts, and a survey of UK library staff.
Findings In the academic library context, the 7S model can be usefully extended to include three library
functions (stuff, space and services) and users. It can also include institutional influences and stakeholders,
and aspects of the external environment or situation, including suppliers and allies. The revised model then
provides a useful framework within which data about library change can be analysed. Perceived barriers to
successful performance fit the model and enable the identification of seven challenges of alignment.
Research limitations/implications The resulting model has potential applications such as in the
structuring analysis of academic library performance, mapping future directions of development and for
exploring variations across the sector and internationally.
Practical implications The revised model can be used by practitioners to think through their own
strategic position and to act to shape their future, in the light of seven major areas of alignment.
Originality/value The paper extends a well-known model used in strategy, to produce a more
comprehensive, sector-specific analytic tool.
Keywords Strategy, Academic libraries, Alignment, Strategic alignment, Keywords, Library
Paper type Research paper
Strategy development and implementation is a key area of leadership, including that of
libraries (Bryson, 2011; Corrall, 2000). Developing a direction for the library is a key task of
library directors and other senior managers (Matthews, 2005). Indeed, as McNicol (2005)
pointed out, because the role of the library is changing in fundamental ways, so there is a
need for a much more strategic approach to consider the role of the library. While strategy is
extensively discussed in the library literature, there remains a need for models to help
analyse the situation of academic libraries and help develop effective strategies to deal with
a seemingly increasingly complex, uncertain future (Bryson, 2016; OConnor, 2014).
Research on the management of libraries also has a need for better, sector-specific models
that can be used to structure the analysis of change (Pinfield et al., 2017).
Since it was proposed in the 1980s, McKinseys 7S model of strategy and change has
become an influential approach to analyse strategic change in any type of organisation
(Hayes, 2018; Waterman et al., 1980). It offers a seemingly comprehensive model of the key
strategic resources of the organisation that need to be aligned, being notable for its early
acknowledgement of softelements, influenced by organisational culture. There has been
some use in library world, notably Corralls (2000) adaptation of it.
The purpose of this paper is to understand the issues of alignment by further developing
the 7S model for theacademic library context. Thisis achieved by considering the relevanceof
Library Management
Vol. 40 No. 5, 2019
pp. 313-326
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/LM-06-2018-0052
Received 14 June 2018
Revised 24 August 2018
Accepted 10 September 2018
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
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