Introduction to the Enterprise Complexity Model

This website offers a learning programme to deal with problematic situations supported by the Viable System Model, the Viplan Method and the Viplan Methodology. Together they help with management cybernetics, enterprise complexity management, organizational learning, information management, variety engineering, communications and systems thinking. It offers conceptual and practical papers, about Syncho Research activities over the years. It includes old and recent materials.  

COVID-19 has been critical to humanity over the last few years, in which we have had to make significant developments in the management of social issues and in particular of their complexity. During this time, we have made contributions to this management, which are reported in this website. Issues included are:

  1. An Enterprise Complexity Model
  2. Managing the complexity of COVID 19
  3. Organisational developments, following the work of Humberto Maturana,
  4. Dealing with Global issues, starting from local decisions related to collaboration among nation-states, collaboration with superstates such as the European Union and their interactions with global empires such as the USA and China; these are collaborative activities towards overcoming the Westphalia Dilemma (see paper)
  5. Development of an economic model starting from the Cybersyn Project in Chile.
  6. Application of the Viplan Methodology to Colombia as an instance of first and second order cybernetics.
  7. Global collaboration to the World Organisation of Systems and Cybernetics (WOSC)

To access this website, you may write to: Professor Raul Espejo,

Programme Content

The programme has seven modular components:

1. Human communication systems:

This module presents ontological and epistemological discussions relevant to 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, which permit users to develop their own data models.

2. The Viable System Model (VSM):

Conceptually 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 huge insight into the management of this complexity. The VSM is widely used as a heuristic to manage complexity by many people and enterprises.

3. The Viplan Method:

This module offers an in-depth study of a method to use the VSM; this is the Viplan Method, supported by case studies. Additionally it explains a learning system as a dynamic explanation of the Viable System Model and its use. This method relates an enterprise’s policies and strategy to its structure. An enterprise’s strategy is a means to work out its organisational processes to deal with its environment challenges. 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 the circular causality between structure and environment. This method has supported Syncho’s work over 25 years.

4. Identity and Structural Archetypes:

The VSM uses Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety to work out complexity imbalances between organisational components and between them and environmental situations. Often these imbalances make apparent mismatches affecting the organisation’s performance. These are archetypes of relational imbalances in organisations of all kinds. In this part of the programme, based on empirical evidence, a wide range of identity and structural archetypical are diagnosed.

5. The Enterprise Complexity Model (ECM):

This module makes an important methodological contribution to the application of the VSM. The enterprise complexity model is focused is on working out shortcomings in achieving required sustainable development goals between organisations and their environments. The ECM is offered as a problem-solving approach to understand enterprises as organisations dealing with challenges of all kinds, such as impossible markets, difficult innovation in technology application and so forth. It helps seeing collaborative enterprises, as well as parts of these enterprises, as systemic networks that together may be more effective dealing with problematic situations. ECMs are 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 they recognise as their products or services. Often these processes can be related to the value chains that they manage to relate suppliers to customers. These processes relate to the enterprise’s strategy. Also people are producing organisational processes, that is, processes that produce enterprises as cohesive and adaptive wholes in their environments. The modelling of these organisational processes can be done with the support of the Viplan Method. Additionally, people in organisations need information for their participation in business processes. They need the support of 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 for 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 – they 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.