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VSM Preliminary Diagnosis Step 2

Step 2:
Draw the Viable System Model in Outline


To depict the overview of your System-in-Focus in its totality.


Print and use the Canvas


The diagnosis of your organization will proceed by drawing a large diagram which will represent your System-in-Focus as a whole system. At this stage, the outlines of the three main parts of the VSM – Operation, Metasystem and Environment – will be sketched in. Between them they represent the overview of your System-in-Focus in its totality.

The diagram represents your system-in-focus interacting with its environ­ment.

The Operation carries out the system’s basic activities. It will consist of several Operational units. It is the muscles, the production units, the parts that generate wealth.

The Metasystem is there to provide a service to the Operational units. It is there to hold the organization together. It is the brain, the regulator, the management.

The details of the what goes on within each of these three shapes will be filled in as the diagnosis proceeds.

The job at this point is to draw the VSM in outline as an overview of your system-in-focus interacting with its environment.

2.1 Sketch on a Big Paper

Get the biggest piece of paper you can find. Use at least A1 technical drawing paper, a wallpaper or a set of these would be better. You can rip up diagrams you don’t like and start again.

2.2 Write in big letters



(or if you’d rather … use Aims and Objectives)

2.3 Draw a first outline

Draw the Metasystem as a big diamond and the Operation as a matching ellipse and the Environment as an amoeboid shape. Make all of these as large as you can.

Derived from Jon Walker’s VSM Guide for co-ops and federations