The Viable System Model

Training program: The Viable System Model

How do you make decisions, how do you design the communication channels in your company? How adaptive, how controllable your company is depends on this. In many companies, this dimension is undervalued.

As the “state of the art” in organizational diagnosis, the VSM focuses on the nervous system of the organization, the decision-making and communication processes, and thus goes beyond the “normal” views of organizational charts and processes.

This third dimension of organizing offers groundbreaking new insights for a diagnosis and design of the enterprise. Properly designed, it turns dealing with complexity into a company’s strength.

Where does the VSM come from

The Viable System Model (VSM) was first formulated in 1959 by Stafford Beer in his book Cybernetics and Management. It serves as a reference model for describing, diagnosing, and designing the management of organizations, capturing the management functions at each organizational level, representing the flow of information between organizational levels, and helping to ask purposeful questions.

Viable in a system means that this system can adapt to external and internal changes. It must learn to perceive, to learn from changes, to make sense of them, to develop on its own. At the same time, it must not give up its own identity.

S. Beer formulates viability as follows: Not profit maximization, but survival must be the goal. It is not the management of people, but the steering or controlling and regulating of entire organizations in their environment that is decisive. Not a few people manage, but all must perform certain functions of management.

The new training program

With our new training program on VSM, we provide an important building block for implementing System Thinking in organizations.

VSM Coach three days


Basics and cardinal errors of organizing

Learning objectives

  • How to avoid the typical cardinal mistakes
  • Why there is a need for a third dimension in organizing

Overview of the Viable System Model

Learning objectives

  • The basic elements of the model
    The principle of recursivity

Organization design with the VSM

Learning objectives

  • Diagnosis and design of the superstructure
  • Diagnosis and design of the control/decision-making structure
  • Diagnosis and design of the communication structure

Brief diagnoses and aids

Learning objectives

  • Patterns of dysfunctionality (pathological patterns) and how to cure them
  • Procedure in application projects
  • Complexity engineering tools
  • Assessment, goals and metrics

Course duration

3 days (each from 09:00 to 17:00)


Interactive workshops with presentations, exercises and exchange of experiences.


Course: German or English

Training materials: English


Course fees: 2.900,-€ plus. VAT

The price includes course material, lunch and beverages during breaks. For certification and membership purposes, your contact information will be shared with Metaphorum.

Note: Accommodation is not included in the price and must be organized by the participants themselves.

The trainers

We were able to recruit two long-time practitioners and book authors for the program: Dr. Martin Pfiffner and Mark Lambertz.

Martin Pfiffner


Martin Pfiffner (1965, Switzerland) has been working as a top management consultant for organizations in the business and non-business sectors for 25 years. He has many years of application experience in SMEs and corporations in various business sectors in DACH, Asia and America.

He earned his doctorate under Fredmund Malik and Peter Gross and supplemented his education by studying management cybernetics with Stafford Beer, the inventor of the VSM.

From the 1990s, he was responsible for the development of management cybernetics at the Management Zentrum St. Gallen under the direction of Fredmund Malik.

Since 2013, Pfiffner has been working independently for his company mp consulting

Mark Lambertz

Mark Lambertz was born in Düsseldorf in 1971 and works as a consultant and coach for companies that want to tap into the opportunities of digitization in these complex times. The human being with his needs and abilities is always the focus of his work.

He co-founded the digital agency anyMOTION in 1995 and led it for 20 years. During this time, the company grew to 60 employees and has since been ranked in the top70 in the Digital Rankings.

He has been working with VSM for more than 10 years, improving structures at large companies and at startups.

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