To read this content please select one of the options below:

Viable service systems and decision making in service management

Ralph Badinelli (Department of Business Information Technology, University of Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA)
Sergio Barile (Department of Business, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy)
Irene Ng (Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK)
Francesco Polese (Department of Medicine and Surgery, University of Salerno, Salerno, Italy)
Marialuisa Saviano (Department of Medicine and Surgery, University of Salerno, Salerno, Italy)
Primiano Di Nauta (Department of Business and Economics Sciences, University of Foggia, Foggia, Italy)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 3 August 2012




The purpose of this paper is to highlight how systems thinking contributes to decision making in uncertain contexts that are characteristic of service systems. Based on the assumption that service systems face complex conditions, the paper posits that systems thinking may support the understanding of key issues in service management.


This paper proposes an interpretation of complexity in the context of service systems, which highlights the perspective change that occurs when a systems approach is adopted. The offered conceptual perspective is then brought to an operational level, in spite of the complexity of the decisions driving a viable system, by modelling a service system as a network of agents, resources, processes and decisions through the use of fuzzy logic. The paper reviews service management research streams, and takes a deeper look at the concepts of service systems and complex service systems. The paper then proceeds to discuss how systems thinking contributes to service management by proposing a systems interpretation of complexity.


Service management theories and models may be enhanced by integrating prevailing approaches, based on a quantitative and mechanistic view of service systems dynamics, with systems thinking‐based meta‐models that can be used in better understanding service exchanges. The findings of the paper also show how the integration of an engineering approach can be insightful to the understanding of service systems; adopting a Viable Systems Approach (VSA) as a meta‐model can be useful in fully comprehending market behaviour in uncertain conditions.


The originality of this paper lies in exploring the contribution of systems thinking, in particular of the Viable Systems Approach (VSA), to service management and decision making.



Badinelli, R., Barile, S., Ng, I., Polese, F., Saviano, M. and Di Nauta, P. (2012), "Viable service systems and decision making in service management", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 498-526.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles