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Article
Publication date: 17 April 2007

A. Espinosa, R. Harnden and J. Walker

This paper aims to contribute to current research on complexity management by re‐visiting Beer's paradigm on control and self‐organization and explaining its usefulness to…

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2603

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to contribute to current research on complexity management by re‐visiting Beer's paradigm on control and self‐organization and explaining its usefulness to support non‐hierarchical organizations and networks and its complementarities to new development in complexity sciences.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper explains the current crisis of hierarchical structures and then summarises new proposals on non‐hierarchical organizations from the perspective of complexity sciences. It then summarises Beer's provenance of control and, in particular, the ideas of requisite variety and meta‐systemic management. It explains how these ideas transform the way of approaching management and presents examples of real‐life businesses transformed by following this approach.

Findings

The analysis highlights limitations in current management theory and practice that can be overcome by embracing the paradigm of control suggested by some of the pioneer cybernetitians. It shows that the model has unprecedented powers to describe and analyse the network characteristics of contemporary social organizations from the perspective of effective management and lays down a new and democratic paradigm of control.

Research limitations/implications

This paper concentrates on explaining the main arguments of meta‐systemic management suggested originally by Beer and exploring its implications for managing complex networked organizations; more applied research would be convenient to experiment the suggested model.

Originality/value

This study hopefully has shown that core ideas from the tradition of cybernetics add diagnostic and design power to the other tools of complexity management, giving rise to new insights into how learning, networked structures can be brought to reality.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 36 no. 3/4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 23 May 2019

Andrea Moretta Tartaglione, Roberto Bruni and Maja Bozic

The purpose of this paper is to explore the dynamics of the relationships between sales and internal and external environmental drivers in a retail company using a systems…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the dynamics of the relationships between sales and internal and external environmental drivers in a retail company using a systems perspective in order to support retail management decisions with nonlinear methods.

Design/methodology/approach

The research and results are presented in two parts: the collection and explorative analysis of the data; and discussion of the managerial implications following a systems perspective. The exploratory analysis is conducted using a statistical comparison of linear and nonlinear models of sales data from a retail company. The data, which comprise two data sets, come from 45 retail stores located in different regions of the USA.

Findings

Specifically, nonlinear models provided a better explanation of variation in retail activity (R2=46 per cent) than linear models (R2=16 per cent). In such a situation, the nonlinear analysis captures the influence of internal and external environmental drivers on retail sales.

Research limitations/implications

With a limited variety of external and internal drivers, the exploratory analysis aims to describe a general situation in which retailers are managing activities in complex environments as opposed to reflect on a particular retail chain.

Practical implications

The systems perspective is used to interpret the managerial implications of the nonlinear analysis fits, particularly in cases where retail decision-makers are adapting, transforming and restructuring sources of competitive advantage in complex environments.

Originality/value

The paper provides an alternative perspective (the systemic one) of how retailers could interpret the relationships between internal and external variables in the dynamic environment of the retail chains with nonlinear models.

Details

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, vol. 47 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0959-0552

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Article
Publication date: 13 July 2018

Amin Vahidi, Alireza Aliahmadi and Ebrahim Teimoury

This paper reviews the underpinning principles and scientific trends of cybernetics and the viable system model (VSM). Therefore, this paper aims to guide authors and…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper reviews the underpinning principles and scientific trends of cybernetics and the viable system model (VSM). Therefore, this paper aims to guide authors and managers active in management cybernetics and to inform them about the past, current and future trends in this discipline.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper adopts both qualitative and quantitative methods. First, a descriptive and qualitative approach is used to review and analyze management cybernetics historical trends. Then, a frequency analysis (quantitative) is conducted on the 1,000 first publications in the field.

Findings

The cybernetics was emerged in the Josiah Macy conference in 1946. Then, Wiener introduced the field of cybernetics and Ashby, Von Foerster and McCulloch developed this concept as a discipline. The Management cybernetics field that was introduced by Beer is a combination of system, control and management sciences. Beer presented VSM as an operational model in this area. Analyzing the 1,000 top-ranked publications shows that the introduction of this field reached maturity and further development became relatively mature. Moreover, based on the analyzed trends, VSM model application can now be strongly attractive. In this paper, the main journals, authors and research trends are analyzed. The main application area of this model is in the IT field and large-scale organizations.

Practical implications

The present paper’s implication for practitioners and researchers is guiding authors and managers to most appropriate studies in the field, so that they can produce and use the most efficient studies in this field.

Social implications

The fields of IT, Policy-Making, Production, Social Issues, Service industry, Software developers, etc., are some of this paper’s implications for industry and society.

Originality/value

In this paper, the steps of VSM development are investigated. Then, recent trends (classifications, authors, journals and topics analysis) are surveyed by analyzing the top 1,000 publications in this field. This paper would help researchers find more appropriate research fields. In addition, it helps practitioners find the optimum solutions based on management cybernetics for their problems among vast numbers of publications.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 48 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 4 May 2018

Markus Schwaninger

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…

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Design/methodology/approach

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.

Findings

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.

Originality/value

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.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 48 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 1 January 2006

Paul A. Stokes

To establish the concept of identity as the bridging concept of cybernetics and sociology.

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1205

Abstract

Purpose

To establish the concept of identity as the bridging concept of cybernetics and sociology.

Design/methodology/approach

The approach is a pincers movement. On the one hand, it is argued that there has been a move towards an identity society; identity is a foundational concept for an understanding of contemporary society. On the other hand, the paper argues that in the work of Beer, identity became the key to his proposal that the VSM is the optimal form of variety management in a social system. The study is based on an extension and application of Finalizierungstheorie to the problem.

Findings

Identity is the key concept for the articulation of cybernetics and sociology. There has been a singular failure to apply cybernetic ideas to sociological materials in a manner that has met with the approval and satisfaction of the sociological community. Beer's formulation of the identity phenomenon and its extrapolation in the social sphere proposes a solution to this long‐standing problem.

Practical implications

The approach allows for a broad ranging multi‐level research programme in sociological cybernetics to be formulated and pursued in a manner congenial to the accumulation of a substantial knowledge base ranging from micro‐ to macro‐issues.

Originality/value

This paper presents a unique synthesis of cybernetics and sociology building on and extending the work of Beer in the field of managerial cybernetics.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 35 no. 1/2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 1 February 2004

Peter Hayward

This paper introduces the Viable Systems Model and in particular the Meta System component of that model, as a framework within which to consider how foresight can be…

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Abstract

This paper introduces the Viable Systems Model and in particular the Meta System component of that model, as a framework within which to consider how foresight can be facilitated in organisations. Shows how the System 4 function within the meta system is in a position to facilitate processes that will produce effectiveness and the development of overall system identity. Also shows how adopting another framework for understanding the paradigms or worldviews that operate in organisations can enhance the likelihood that these processes will be successful.

Details

Foresight, vol. 6 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1463-6689

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Article
Publication date: 3 May 2011

S.A. Harwood

The purpose of this paper is to review the strategy literature in such a manner as to identify the key approaches and themes of current interest and thus provide a…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to review the strategy literature in such a manner as to identify the key approaches and themes of current interest and thus provide a platform to position organisational cybernetics, in particular, the viable system model (VSM), as a complement to these established approaches.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper reviews the dominant themes of three conceptual strands to the business strategy domain (the resource‐based view, the strategy‐as‐practice approach and the strategy‐structure debate) to ascertain how they inform about the notion of strategy as the content of the process of strategising. Concepts from organisational cybernetics are examined to reveal how they can enrich our understanding of strategy, and complement the strategy domain conceptualisations.

Findings

This analysis presents the view of strategy as discourse for action. The VSM provides a device to support discussions about the organisational implications both of the process of strategising, as well as of considered strategies.

Research limitations/implications

The different themes found within the strategy literature (e.g. the process of strategising, internationalisation, collaborative ventures and mergers and acquisitions) offer a rich domain within which organisational cybernetics and the VSM can enrich through its systemic epistemology. Likewise, the strategy domain can inform interpretations of the VSM. Together, this offers the opportunity for a new stream of enquiry.

Practical implications

The insights provided suggest that assistance can be given to organisations for them to improve, not only their strategy‐related activity, but also how they evaluate the organisational implications of considered strategies.

Originality/value

The paper bridges the two conceptual domains of strategy and organisational cybernetics to promote the view that they usefully enrich each other when attempting to understand strategy.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 40 no. 3/4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 1 June 1993

Robert Vallée

Considers Stafford Beer's idea of the mapping of a set of events. Shows how it can be compared with use of observation and pragmatical operators in the context of…

Abstract

Considers Stafford Beer's idea of the mapping of a set of events. Shows how it can be compared with use of observation and pragmatical operators in the context of dynamical systems theory.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 22 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 3 May 2011

Roland Holten and Christoph Rosenkranz

The viable system model (VSM) provides a way to understand communication structures in an organization. It gives us a means to visualize and analyze information channels…

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1146

Abstract

Purpose

The viable system model (VSM) provides a way to understand communication structures in an organization. It gives us a means to visualize and analyze information channels relating the functions in an enterprise, a corporation, or any other kind of organization. At the heart of the VSM is the application of Ashby's law of requisite variety. The resulting models help to analyze and discuss what variety attenuation of operations and what variety amplification of management can establish requisite variety. Many studies and applications show that the complexity management laws described by Ashby and Beer hold, and that managerial, operational and environmental varieties tend to equate. The amplifiers and attenuators, however, should be designed to do so with minimum damage to people and to cost. The purpose of this paper is to determine to what extent the design of amplifiers and attenuators is possible if these are realized based on linguistic communication, and whether this design can be automated in these cases.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper uses logical presentation of ideas along with examples from cases. The basic argument is that the design of information channels – amplifiers and attenuators – relies on self‐organizing processes that depend on an operation called linguistic predication.

Findings

The paper demonstrates that linguistic predication is not computable based on the model of the Turing machine so that this operation is restricted to be carried out by human agents. In these cases, technology is limited to providing a technical means for communication and social processes.

Originality/value

While there is a large knowledge base of literature in the field of applications of the VSM there is less work providing concepts and guidelines for designing information channels. This paper offers a conceptual and logical argument for their characteristics based on linguistics and philosophy of language.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 40 no. 3/4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 1 April 2003

Nicholas J. Ashill, Mark Frederikson and John Davies

Using grounded theory, the authors present an inductive model of strategic marketing planning (SMP) which extends the domain of the marketing planning literature. Based on…

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11338

Abstract

Using grounded theory, the authors present an inductive model of strategic marketing planning (SMP) which extends the domain of the marketing planning literature. Based on a field investigation of four large organisations drawn from a single industry using a multiple‐case design, the authors present findings using the views and perspectives of those involved in SMP development and implementation, and identify and group relevant variables into seven major themes or “core categories” that characterise the SMP process. The authors integrate a broad literature search, both within and without of marketing, with the exploratory research results, to develop a grounded theoretical description of multiple layered factors that characterise a SMP process. This grounded “picture” supports the innovative work of Piercy and Morgan, and Greenley and Oktemgil who advocate a broader domain of SMP. We suggest that extending practitioners’ understanding of the nature of these inter‐related factors may lead to better insights of how a SMP process can be managed more effectively.

Details

European Journal of Marketing, vol. 37 no. 3/4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0309-0566

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