Posted in Events, Uncategorized

FSN meeting – September 29 [12 – 2 pm, Room DMS 4165]

Update: here are the slides Viable System Model

The next FSN meeting will be September 29 [12 – 2 pm, Room DMS 4165], on ‘Bureaucracy and the Viable Systems Model’ by John Coghlan.

About the topic: Bureaucracy and the Viable Systems Model

Many malign bureaucracy. When Weber wrote about bureaucracy in the early 1900s, it was a superior way of organizing labour. Today, it is not. Large bureaucracies face vastly more complex and fast changing environments than in Weber’s time. The very size of many bureaucracies means that they lack resilience and adaptability.

Peter Drucker, management guru, said that: we have modelled organizations on flows of energy but now, we are building them based upon flows of information. Old mechanistic command and control bureaucracy dwindles. New information based organizational architecture, based upon systems, and so biological models, is coming to the fore. These organizations show much more resilience and adaptability and often more productivity, than large bureaucracies.

What would the architecture of an information organization be?  British-Welsh Cybernetician Stafford Beer had one answer. He looked at the most complex information organizing organism in the world: the human nervous system. From there, he built a five system model, each level within the other like Russian dolls: a self-recursive system. Being a system, this organizational model deals with the amplification or attenuation of information according to its own needs and those of the environment, particularly the client.

Although empirical studies lack, some documented evidence points to how effective the VSM is to diagnose corporate problems and to create a more flexible, resilient enterprise.

About the presenter: John Coghlan

John Coghlan has degrees in Russian, French language and literature and communications. He has worked in government and in the private sector as public relations writer, editor, teacher, translator and technical writer.  He has worked in Canada, Italy and Haiti and is fluent in seven languages.

The technical writing brought him to an interest in process improvement through such techniques as the enterprise architecture, then the theory of constraints. He went to Haiti where he worked with a Canadian consultant to open up a non-government organization for improving the quality of life in Petionville, a borough of Port-au-Prince. The organization would use a software platform, based upon sociocracy, for proposing, describing, debating and deciding upon new projects to fund. The organizational architecture we chose was the Viable System Model.

If you will be outside Ottawa and would like to connect via Skype please contact me at:; I may be able to arrange a connection.


Sameer Valiyani


Friday Sept 29 DMS 4165 John Coghlan – Complexity 1200-1400
Thursday October 26 DMS 4165 John Verdon -tbc 1200-1400
Friday November 24 DMS 4165 Jack Smith –    Foresight Insight from Hindsight 1200-1400
Friday December 15 DMS 4165 David Harries – Cyber-Security – tbc 1200-1400
Note: times and room assignments are tentative till confirmed on the FSN web site (www.   )   and via regular meeting notices

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