Beer's VSM (Viable System Model)

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Systems theory focuses on complexity and interdependence of relationships. A system is composed of regularly interacting or interdependent groups of activities/parts that form the emergent whole. Systems theory has had a significant effect on management science and understanding organizations.


The Viable System Model is based on work of Stafford Beer, continuing from the 1950s until the present. The basic style of this work is systems approach and it grows out of Beer's operations research background. A systems approach assumes (or claims to show) that all systems (things) operate according to some common fundamental rules, that analysis is usually best done from the top down, that the most fundamental rules deal with the dynamic interaction of a system and its component parts and that systems should be viewed recursively, that is, that each part of a system can itself be studied as a complete system (and vice versa).
"Viable systems are those that are able to maintain a separate existence. Such systems have their own problem solving capacity. If they are to survive, they need not only the capacity to respond to familiar events such as customer orders, but the potential to respond to unexpected events, to the emergence of new social behaviors and even to painful catastrophes. The latter capacity is the hallmark of viable systems; it gives them the capacity to evolve and adapt to changing environments. While a catastrophic event may at a particular instant throw the viable system off balance, the fundamental characteristic of viability lessens its vulnerability to the unexpected, making it more adaptive to change."
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