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The Viable System Paradigm

The Viable System Model was developed by Stafford Beer from his neuroanalytic T, U and V machines produced to construct a "Cybernetic Factory".

Ashby's pioneering work on variety and homeostasis and Pask's work in electrochemical concept growth are important citations, for example.The Beer VSM paradigm is relevant as ever to developing Nano Technology Assemblers and Replicators, for example, because of its deep insights into Organisation in the face of almost inconceivable complexity.

Thus Beer founded Management Cybernetics.


The Five parts correspond to Decision or Identity (System Five) Development (System Four), Operation (System Three), Regulation (System Two) and System One where the whole structure repeats. Systems 3-2-1 form an Autonomic Loop with Four and Five corresponding to cognitive and higher mental functions.

Stafford's core idea was to take human neurophysiology and make an abstraction that mapped into the business or industrial process. The relevant statistic drives his models with actual performance statistics compared to capabilities and potentials.

  • If Actuality deviates from Capability too much an alert or exception signal is sent to the responsible manager.
  • An index of Potential established from current Development Plans and representing what can be achieved if the plan is implemented.
  • Capability is what can be done on a good day when everything is working as it should- a standard.
  • Alerting Algedonic Feedback- analogous to pain in an organism- tells senior 5-4-3 management when life threatening events occur. In the Public Service, for example, when performance is non-compliant with a service delivery agreement a manager is informed. This principle is recursive: it repeats throughout the Organisation. Alerts are escalated.