The Viable Systems Model (Stafford Beer) and Social Business Software

During my studies on my Executive MBA, we studied Stafford Beers Viable Systems model at length. I recently found a reading which, for me, very closely, marries the Viable Systems model with the complexity of organisations and their need to change to become more openly innovative. I think Social Business Software can help.

“…Firstly, the ideas behind the model are not intuitively easy to grasp; secondly, they run counter to the great legacy of thinking about organizations dating from the Industrial Revolution – a legacy that is only now starting to be questioned. To deal with the second point in more detail, organizations have been viewed traditionally as hierarchical institutions that operate according to a top-down command structure: strategic plans are formulated at the top and implemented by a cascade of instructions through the tiered ranks. It is now widely acknowledged that this modus operandi is too slow and inflexible to cope with the increasing rate of change and complexity surrounding most organizations.

Technology developments have helped to usher in a new concept of a flatter, networked-type organization with a wider distribution of data to reach all those who actually perform the work – in real time. The ground is now fertile for viewing the organization in a new light. However, there is also much confusion about the nature of this new-style organization. Ask the members of any large organization to explain its structure to an outsider and a series of confused, confusing and often conflicting interpretations are is likely to result. It is becoming increasingly apparent that it matters much less who reports to whom, as who needs to talk with whom and how all the pieces of a complex interrelated jigsaw fit together to form a synergistic whole. Yet it is precisely this sense of the whole that is so often missing.” (Espejo & Gill, 1997)

I position that deploying Social Business Software as a process, mapping the organisations visions and its strategies and deploying it with training, creating champions within the enterprise and driving this new way to become flatter, more efficient and ultimately more openly innovative is the route most businesses should choose to take.


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