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Models of organizational cybernetics for diagnosis and design

José Pérez Ríos (University of Valladolid, Valladolid, Spain)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 19 October 2010




The purpose of this paper is to introduce a framework, based on Beer's viable system model (VSM) that enables managers of public and private organizations to cope with the complexities faced by their organizations.


Based on concepts from organizational cybernetics (OC) an heuristic is elaborated for the design or diagnosis of any organization, from the point of view of its viability.


An outline of the process that enables managers to diagnose or design the organization they manage is formalized in a structured sequence which, starting with the clarification of an organization's identity, purpose and boundaries, guides the whole process of structure creation and the detailed diagnosis of all its structural components from the point of view of its viability. A taxonomy of frequent pathologies that affect organizations is also presented.

Practical implications

This kind of framework can guide managers to apply the cybernetic concepts for higher organizational performance, thereby overcoming the oft‐bemoaned difficulties in applying these concepts in practice.


The paper tries to fill the gap between the conceptual deep theoretical works in OC by Stafford Beer and other researchers, and the need of managers for a structured process that can guide their application. The framework presented tries to provide that kind of guide. It integrates different components within a single framework, which covers the creation of the general structure, the diagnosis of each particular organization within it, the evaluation of the degree of coherence between organizational levels, and a taxonomy of organizational pathologies to facilitate such a structuring. Another contribution is the introduction of the VSMod software, created precisely to facilitate the implementation of the VSM.



Pérez Ríos, J. (2010), "Models of organizational cybernetics for diagnosis and design", Kybernetes, Vol. 39 No. 9/10, pp. 1529-1550.



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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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