DL meetup: Shaping the Digital Organisation using the Viable System Model

The seventh meetup looked into the Digital Organisation and welcomed Patrick Hoverstadt from Fractal to explain how to use the Viable System Model.

Viable System Model
Source: Patrick Hoverstadt's talk on the Viable System Model

In the last few years, Spotify published their organisation model and many have been trying to copy it since. Advisory organisations have jumped on this bandwagon giving it much promotion. The model is certainly interesting. But is it adapted to every type of business? Is it the systemic solution to make a digital business work? Or, as the cynic would see it, is it only a way for said-consultancies to get lucrative change management work?

There are many other reference models, Bi-modal from Gartner, Product alignment inspired by Lean, PST from Simon Wardley. I even came up with a matrix model a few years back to drive change-as-a-service in organisations. All have a worthwhile take on the situation. However, all models tend to be designed for a context and a purpose and their codification loses their worth. The say “A fool with a tool...” comes to mind. Spotify warned that their model was only a snapshot of evolution and it has continued to change since it was published.

What should we focus our attention on therefore? Complexity thinking explained how organisations need to worry about their continued fitness in their ecosystem. The skill is in the ability to adapt rather than the model itself.

With such an approach, it is critical to understand how the organisation functions and how the work flows through it. We live in the belief that the organisation chart captures this, but it does not, far from it. The Viable System Model (VSM) offers such a technique. VSM models the organisation systems in relation to the environment. It then looks at the flows of work through the systems, the governance and the information available for decisions. It generates a view of the system of work, which is the first step to manage its continuous adaptation and improvements. It should be the compass for leaders going through a digital change journey.

To talk about VSM, we had the pleasure to welcome Patrick Hoverstadt. Patrick has written the reference books on the subject of VSM. Patrick has much experience working with various size of organisations and offers plenty of reassuring common sense.

Please see a download of the decks and videos (from SkillsMatter) at:

  • Philippe Guenet (Henko): The Digital Organisation - Slides »

  • Patrick Hoverstadt (Fractal Consulting): The Viable System Model - Slides » and Video »

For more information on VSM and Patrick, please look at: The books : Fractal Organisation and Patterns of Strategy You may also watch the following Videos / Webminars »:

or see more from Patrick's websites www.fractal-consulting.com and www.Patternsofstrategy.com