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Governance for intelligent organizations: a cybernetic contribution

Markus Schwaninger (Institute of Management, University of St. Gallen, IfB, Dufourstr, Switzerland)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 4 May 2018

Issue publication date: 25 January 2019



This paper aims to revisit the viable system model (VSM) discussing it from both the theoretical and the empirical standpoints, and ascertaining its relevance for organizational governance.


A combination of theoretical and empirical components is used: introduction to theory and critique on the one hand; case studies and a large sample empirical study on the other.


The VSM has proved to be a powerful means of governance for organizations in turbulent times. It conveys a durable, reliable knowledge. This has been corroborated in both case studies and a large-scale empirical study.

Practical implications

Application of the model under study can activate a huge potential for the improvement of organizations.


This contribution tests the VSM in an unseen fashion – qualitatively and quantitatively. The results suggest that a high confidence in the model is justified. It conveys to managers and leaders an unconventional, superior approach to both diagnosis and design of their organizations.



The author wishes to thank Profs Federico Barnabè and Ilaria Perissi for their valuable editorial support and three anonymous referees for their helpful and encouraging comments.


Schwaninger, M. (2019), "Governance for intelligent organizations: a cybernetic contribution", Kybernetes, Vol. 48 No. 1, pp. 35-57.



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