Organisational Fitness: from the Viable Systems Model to Organisational Patterning

Maurice Isaac Yolles


Stafford Beer created the first, and until recently, the only approach able to explore organisational
fitness using his Viable System Model (VSM). More recently, however, a new approach that
comes out of a related stream of theory has also appeared called Organisational Patterning (OP)
which is able to complement the use of VSM. The primary distinction between the two
approaches is that the VSM is qualitative exploring structural faults, while OP is concerned with
exploring the coherence and pathologies of an organisation and is quantitative in nature. The case
application for OP being adopted is the banking sector in China. Major problems have arisen for
China’s state-owned commercial banks since the country has joined the World Trade
Organisation. To be able to respond fully they first need to be able to determine their degree of
coherence and the nature of their pathologies. Such ill-conditions will influence the ability of the
banks to change. The approach adopted in developing OP comes from a relatively new Viable
Systems paradigm called knowledge cybernetcis.


viable system model

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