Intro to Beer’s VSM

The Viable Systems Model ( VSM) was developed by Stafford Beer, an English philosopher and organisational scientist whose work grew out of Cybernetics.

Beer maintained that his VSM was the underlying structure of all viable and successful systems.


The VSM is made up of five systems

Each of the five systems  has a distinct and separate function:

System 1 is concerned with implementation, doing things. Beer said that this was system that controls the variety in the environment.

System 2 manages and coordinates the activities of System 1. It also provides  and allocates resources.

System 3 is the audit and control function for System 1. It interprets the policy directions of System 5 and sets valuation standards and criteria.

System 4 is the intelligence gathering facility. Along with System 1 it is the only system that has contact with the external. Its function is to provide intelligence and information for the policy-making function of System 5.

System 5 is the policy-making and vision setting function within the organisation. It receives information from the other systems often through multiple  system memberships.

There are some important implications of the system:

1) The role of the organisation, through the operations of System 1, is to  control the external environment by creating stabilityIn that environment.

2) For System 1 to control the external environment it needs what was termed as requisite variety namely “the greater the variety within a system, the greater its ability to reduce variety in its environment.’

3) To ensure effective communication between the systems it is important to have overlapping membership, limited to any individual being in any two systems

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