<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Syncho Research Online Learning Centre



The Syncho Online Learning Centre

Programme on Organisational Systems

This is a self-learning programme that people can enrol at no cost. Our purpose is disseminating organisational cybernetics in education, government, business and third sector organisations.

The Programme is a resource for those interested in learning how do enterprises of all kinds work or don't work. The notion of Organisational Systems is developed in the book Organizational Systems: Managing Complexity with the Viable System Model by Raul Espejo and Alfonso Reyes (Springer 2011). The Programme is based on the ideas of the Viable System Model as developed by Stafford Beer and enhanced methodologically by Raul Espejo's academic and consultancy work since the mid 1980s.

The Online Learning Centre uses published and unpublished papers available as downloadable pdfs or eBooks; exercises to facilitate learning; short videos and online templates.

Organisational Systems - Programme Content

The programme has seven modular components:

  1. Human communication systems: this module presents the epistemological grounding of the programme. We understand organisations as networks of human communications or human communication systems.  Maturana’s and Varelas’s ideas of biological autopoiesis and Luhmann’s social autopoiesis have influenced this understanding. Additionally, a key aspect of communications is how people and collectives manage complexity. Both are often overwhelmed by multiple demands that need an effective management of complexity to succeed. Ashby’s concepts of variety and requisite variety are at the core of all the chapters of this module. This module includes a Variety Engineering template, supported by a data base, which permits the user to develop their own models.

  2. The Viable System Model (VSM): this module is at the core of the programme. It offers an understanding of successful strategies to manage the huge complexity of communications within enterprises and between them and other enterprises, institutions and agents of all kinds in their surroundings. Beer’s VSM, in particular its recursive structure, gives a powerful insight into the management of this complexity. The VSM is widely used as a heuristic to manage complexity by many people and enterprises.

  3. Use of Viplan:  this module offers an in-depth study of the Viplan Method, supported by case studies. This method relates an enterprise’s policies and strategy to its structure. An enterprise’s strategy is a means to work out which aspects of its environment are relevant to consider. This is the enterprise’s relevant complexity for which it needs to develop a robust structure. Naturally, both the enterprise’s strategy and its environmental complexity are affecting each other all the time. The five steps of the Viplan Method offer a path to understand this circular causality. This method is supported by The Viplan Toolbox, which offers templates to apply the five steps of the method.
  4. Identity and Structural Archetypes: This module is based on the Viable System Model and the Viplan Method. It identifies a wide range of identity and structural archetypical weaknesses that recur in organisations. This module offers observational tools to diagnose organisational weaknesses.
  5. The Enterprise Complexity Model (ECM): this module makes an important methodological contribution to the application of the VSM. Its focus is on problem solving and offers an approach to see enterprises as organisations dealing with challenges of all kinds, such as the market, technology and the environment. It helps seeing enterprises as components of networks that together may be more effective dealing with these problematic situations. It is also strongly grounded in the current digital economy and the related information and communication technologies. The module develops the language of complexity in detail and offers heuristics to model complexity in particular problematic situations.
  6. Performance and Information Management: People in organisations are contributing to the enterprise’s business processes, that is, to producing whatever their products and services are. This is the value chain that they manage to relate their suppliers to their customers. These processes relate to the enterprise’s strategy. Also people are producing organisational processes, that is, processes that maintain the enterprise as a cohesive and adaptive whole in its environment. The modelling of these processes is done with the support of the Viplan Method. But, people in organisations need information for their participation in business and organisational processes.  For this they are supported by information processes. However inadequate these processes might be, they are natural to an enterprise. The purpose of this module is to improve them by design. It is necessary to align information and communication systems with business and organisational processes. This is an exercise in managing the complexity of an organisation at the level of individuals and groups. This is an exercise in variety engineering that is grounded in the Viplan Method and the Enterprise Complexity Model.
  7. Individual and Organisational Learning:  in a changing environment a fundamental prerequisite for the survival of individuals and organizations alike is their ability to adapt to this change. This is the essence of ‘learning’.  The organization requires an organizational learning capability and a capacity to overcome learning obstacles. However, such a learning capability is not enough. Competing companies are learning too. Thus the speed of learning is also important - one must be able to learn faster than the competition. Enabling learning capabilities has thus become one of the central management tasks of the present day. This module offers a learning model grounded in the management of complexity. 



Joining the Programme on Organisational Systems

If you are interested in joining this programme, please write to Professor Raul Espejo, e-mail r.espejo@syncho.org, explaining your current understanding of organisational cybernetics and how you see it can be relevant today.