Structural design of a national youth and sports information system using the viable system model

Fouzi M. Ben‐Ali (Management Department, College of Economics, Al Tahadi University, Sirte, Libya)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Publication date: 3 May 2011



Stafford Beer's viable system model (VSM) offers a powerful and alternative model for both economic and social organizations to structure themselves, especially for those operating in highly turbulent environments. Recent advancements in information technology make feasible the implementation of real‐time information systems. The purpose of this paper is to describe the author's involvement in designing an information system for Libya's Youth and Sports Ministry, using Beer's VSM.


Systemic methodological ways of gathering the necessary data to build and implement the model, such as Checkland's CATWOE and Espejo's VIPLAN, make it far easier for information systems designers to implement the VSM.


An implementation of the model for Libya's Youth and Sports Ministry was undertaken in 2007. Although the full implementation was never completed, the methodological approach used was effective. Another lesson learnt by the analyst was that before attempting to improve the viability of a system, whether a human resource planning information system for an organization or implementing a viable model for a ministry or state, it is necessary to plan for a scenario where unforeseen and catastrophic changes, whether from external environmental challenges or from internal policy changes, can challenge the survivability of the project itself.


Research papers on implementations of the VSM tend to focus on the structure and the philosophical mechanisms in achieving requisite variety, however methods and tools to aid the implementation of the model are very few and not well clarified. This could explain why the late Stafford Beer initially sought the need to publish Diagnosing the System for Organizations in 1985 to simplify the process of implementing his pioneering insights and thoughts.



Ben‐Ali, F. (2011), "Structural design of a national youth and sports information system using the viable system model", Kybernetes, Vol. 40 No. 3/4, pp. 394-404.

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