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VSM Preliminary Diagnosis Step 4

Step 4:
System Two – Stability and conflict resolution

PURPOSE: To identify those parts of the System-in-Focus which ensure that the Opera­tional units interact in a stable manner.

4.1 Review your Systems One

Look at your list of Operational elements.

4.2 Identify potential conflict

Think about any conflict of interests or instabilities, (or oscillations) which may occur as the Operational elements interact. How are these conflicting interests resolved? List the instabilities and the ways that they are dealt with.

4.3 Draw in System Two

Take your VSM diagram and draw in System Two.

4.4 Annotate your diagram


Why think about stability?

Without exception, all systems with interactive parts, regardless of their nature, have stability problems.

Anyone who’s had the misfortune of trying to ride a bicycle with a buckled wheel down a steep hill will know how an unstable system can behave, and why the consideration of stability criteria is an essential part of any design.

Instabilities between people are just as universal. Look at young children in the playground, or marital break-down, or the way communes inevitably collapse.

Nation States exhibit extreme instabilities, the arms-race being the most concerning outcome.

But whatever the particular case, the need for some way of dealing with instabilities is essential, otherwise the organisation will shake itself to pieces.

The argument goes:

  1. The parts of a system will invariably have conflicting interests.
  2. These conflicts will tend to lead to instabilities.
  3. Instabilities left unchecked become destructive, and the system will begin to oscillate. (I want it! Give it to me! No I won’t!)

To deal with this, any viable system must have a System Two for:

  • resolving conflicts
  • dealing with instability
  • damping oscillations
Derived from Jon Walker’s VSM Guide for co-ops and federations