Viable System Model: A theory for designing more responsive organisations

By Angela Espinosa

angela-espinosa
Angela Espinosa (biography)

How can communities, businesses, regions, and nations – which can all be thought of as organisations – be designed to be capable of dealing quickly and effectively with environmental fluidity and complexity?

The Viable System Model, often referred to as VSM, is a theory that posits that a complex organisation is more capable of responding to a changing and unpredictable environment, if it is:

  • composed of autonomous, effective, and agile subsidiary organisations,
  • highly connected to each other, and
  • cohesively operating with shared ethos, purpose, processes, and technologies

A complex organisation therefore has multiple levels of nested organisations, each adhering to these principles.

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