The Viable Systems Model: a framework for organisational design

schedule 11:30 AM - 12:15 PM place EN 307 (C40) people 22 Attending

The Viable Systems Model (VSM) offers a systematic approach to diagnosing organisational issues and designing organisational structures in consideration of how the organisation adapts to its environment. This session will provide an overview of the VSM's insights and modes of use. 

We propose that enterprises can be considered to have three aspects: setting the strategy (direction), getting the work done (realisation), and structuring for sustainable effectiveness (organisation).

Popular contemporary frameworks for Strategy development include the Business Model Canvas and systems thinking approaches such as causal loop diagrams and system dynamics models.

Realisation methodologies include Lean and Six Sigma techniques for process improvement and BPM for process management, as well as specialist IT practices such as Agile and Enterprise Architecture. 

There appears to be a gap when it comes to methodologies for organisational design.

The Viable Systems Model (VSM), developed by Stafford Beer on cybernetics principles in the 1960s, offers a complementary, systems oriented, approach to the Organisation dimension. 

Stafford Beer's books are not widely available, and much of the discussion on the internet is highly technical and specialised. However, the basic concepts of the VSM can be very useful in analysing and designing organisational structures and interactions.

This talk will provide a non-technical introductory overview to the elements, objectives and application of the VSM, and will invite participants to consider its applicability to their own needs.

 
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Outline/structure of the Session

What do we mean by "viable"?

Why do we need a model for organisational design?

Brief history of the origins of the Viable Systems Model (VSM)

Elements of the VSM

  • System 1 - work units
  • System 2 - co-ordination
  • System 3 - operational management
  • System 3* - audit and verification
  • System 4 - planning and development
  • System 5 - context, purpose, reflection

Recursion in the VSM

Application of the VSM in practice

Learning Outcome

Awareness of the aims and structure of the VSM

Ideas for application of the VSM for diagnosing and rectifying organisational issues

Resources for further investigation

Target Audience

System designers; also team and project leaders with responsibility for organisation.

schedule Submitted 3 months ago

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