The Viable System Model (VSM) is a management framework developed by Stafford Beer, a British theorist, in the 1950s. It is used to analyze and design complex organizations and systems, focusing on their structure and interaction to achieve viability. The VSM borrows ideas from cybernetics and biology, particularly the concept of how living organisms maintain their internal stability and adapt to their environment.

The VSM as interpreted here is based on the idea that organizations are complex systems that require a certain amount of autonomy to be effective. The model consists of five subsystems, each with its own function and level of autonomy. These subsystems work together to create a viable system that can adapt to change and thrive in a complex environment.


System 1: Operations - These are the teams or departments responsible for carrying out the core activities or functions of an organization. These might be the agile teams working on different projects or product features.

System 2: Coordination - This subsystem manages the interactions, conflicts, and dependencies between the operational units (System 1). Agile coaches can play a vital role in this area by facilitating communication, collaboration, and coordination within and across prodct teams.

System 3: Tactics and Effectiveness- It oversees and monitors the performance of System 1 and System 2, ensuring they work efficiently and effectively towards the organization's goals. In Agile organizations, ****this function is often decentralized and shared among team members and stakeholders. Regular reviews, such as sprint reviews and retrospectives, contribute to this control mechanism.

System 4: Adaptation and strategy - This subsystem is responsible for future planning, learning, and adapting to changes in the external environment. It scans for opportunities and threats, as well as develops strategies to maintain viability. In an Agile context, System 4 activities include continuous improvement, inspecting and adapting processes, and incorporating feedback from stakeholders. Agile coaches and Scrum Masters contribute to this by fostering a culture of learning, innovation, and continuous improvement within their teams.

System 5: Identity and Values - This subsystem defines the overall vision, mission, values, and culture of the organization. It sets the overall direction and ensures that all other systems align with the organizational identity. In an Agile organization, this can be represented by executive leadership and/or the product owner, who provides direction and priorities for the product teams.

Today, the VSM has found a new field of influence in the world of agile organizations and agile leadership as it provides a framework for agile organizations to find their culture and structure. Agile organizations need the ability to respond to change quickly, and the VSM provides a way to design organizations that can do this effectively.

The VSM, with its focus on adaptability and responsiveness, is well-suited for guiding agile organizations in their quest to find the right culture and structure. By applying the principles of the VSM, agile organizations can foster a culture that encourages experimentation, learning, and continuous improvement. This enables them to adapt to change more effectively and maintain their viability in an increasingly complex world.

Additionally, the VSM provides a framework for agile leaders to structure their organizations in a way that promotes collaboration and empowers teams to make decisions quickly and effectively. By identifying and addressing potential communication and coordination challenges, the VSM can help agile leaders create an environment where innovation and adaptability thrive.

About us and How we can Help

Florian Grote and Kay B. Liewald are seasoned Agile practitioners who work with people in organizations of all sizes to help them build inclusive, resilient, and highly effective Agile cultures and structures. For a first discussion on how we can help, get in touch via

Florian Grote

Professor of Product Management, Organisational Design Coach & Researcher


I keep on being amazed by what teams and communities of people working toward the same purpose can achieve. I have made it my mission to help build those relations within and around organisations that really unlock potentials. To achieve this, I take a systemic approach: First understand the special ingredients that make a team, a group or an organisation more than the sum of its parts, and then grow the drivers of success in the system.


At CODE University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, I coach individuals and teams on a daily basis, supporting them in setting up customised agile working methods and defining their purpose and strategy for product development. My experience in the tech world spans a career in product design and product management for innovative integrated hardware and software products. More info:

Kay Liewald

Scrum Master and Agile Coach

Helping people and teams get the most out of the agile mindset.

When it comes to individual coaching and working with teams, Carl Rogers' person-centered approach and clear, simple and effective interventions are key success factors for me. The person-centered approach is based on authenticity, unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding and empowers people to realise their full potential.

Successful teamwork is all about promoting the strengths but also accepting weaknesses in all of us. A high-performing team continuously develops through transparency, appreciation and communication. The human factor always plays the decisive role!

Carl Rogers has fascinated me since I was a student at the University of Göttingen, and has accompanied me in my professional career for over 15 years. As a person-centered coach, my goal is to help people recognize their strengths, master complex situations, and use their full potential.