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Design and diagnosis for viable organizations in practice: university urban planning

José Pérez Ríos (University of Valladolid, Valladolid, Spain)
Xosé Lois Martínez Suárez (University of A Coruña, A Coruña, Spain)
Iván Velasco Jiménez (University of Valladolid, Valladolid, Spain)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 27 April 2012




The purpose of this paper is to present an example of the application of a framework, based on Beer's organizational cybernetics and viable system model, that allowed the top management of a public university to design and implement university policy and actions related to the physical design of the various university campuses.


Based on organizational cybernetics concepts, an heuristic is used by the top management of a public university for designing the strategy and actions related to urban planning issues.


The paper outlines the process that helped the university's new top management to diagnose the situation at the beginning of its mandate and to design pertinent actions. This process starts by clarifying the university identity, purpose and boundaries and is followed by identifying the required structural levels. For each of them the key factors to be considered and actions to be taken are stated. The use of a Recursion Levels‐Key Factors Matrix helped to maintain a coherent and holistic view of the intervention.

Practical implications

This kind of framework can guide leaders of public and private organizations to apply cybernetic concepts to improve their strategic policies' design and actions.


The application of organizational cybernetics and the viable system model to urban planning‐related activities in universities is highly original. The framework here presented, together with the example of its application, can serve as a guide to leaders of other universities as well as other public or private organizations when coping with the complexity they have to face.



Pérez Ríos, J., Lois Martínez Suárez, X. and Velasco Jiménez, I. (2012), "Design and diagnosis for viable organizations in practice: university urban planning", Kybernetes, Vol. 41 No. 3/4, pp. 291-317.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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