The Viable System Model

Many theories, developed to explain the behaviour of organizations, think in one way or another in a linear cause-and-effect way: A causes B, and B leads to C. Even a complex model such as Systems Dynamics (developed by professor Jay Forrester) tries to create an understanding of nonlinear behaviour of complex systems over time through a network of linear cause-and-effect loops.

However, the real life might be much more complex than that. The A’s, B’s, and C’s of these models are inseparably interconnected to multitude of variables; therefore, for these models to have any meaningful outcome they have to capture all the intricate, and many times obscure relations. Any kind of simplification will limit the model’s ability to describe the real system in its entirety.

The Viable System Model (VSM), in contrast, embraces a holistic approach to organizations (and systems), providing a theory to identify and explain what a Viable System should look like.

In this endeavour, professor Stafford Beer utilizes different western organizational theories as well as eastern philosophies, and provides a new approach in complete contrast with our traditionally deep-engraved hierarchical way of thinking.