Growing Adaptive Organizations

Step B1: Review the results of the observations


Achieve an understanding of the System from a VSM perspective.


Review the results of the analysis/preliminary diagnosis steps and draw first conclusions.


B1.1 Review

Review the system: you should have identified the major parts of your System-in-Focus which render it viable.

B1.2 Missing

Note which parts are missing, i.e. do not have a valid representation in the existing organization.

B1.3 Inadequate Parts

Re-consider the parts which seem to be inadequate.. Do you have an initial idea how to handle them? No, do not yet act. You need some more critical input.

B1.4 Parts which don’t map

Did you identify any parts that don’t map onto the VSM and therefore don’t have anything to do with viability? Just note them, do not act yet. We will come back in the Decide steps.


By now you have:

  • Listed the Operational elements.
  • Identified System 2.
  • Listed the five functions of System 3 and identified it.
  • Listed System 4 activities and considered who does them.
  • Considered policy and the extent to which it represents the views of the members.

You have also put all of this together on a large VSM diagram, which will give a picture of your System-in-Focus in its totality.

Now cross out those parts of your organization which appear on the VSM from your original list.

Remember to be clear about the System-in-Focus. Anything about the internal workings of the Operational elements should not appear on this diagram. (e.g. if you are analyzing a value stream, you do not add details of the individual teams The boxes 2, 3, 4 and 5 refer to the whole of the value stream).

If you can’t put anything in some of the boxes: this is quite normal for an initial diagnosis. For example, there might be effectively no System 4: alas, you have identified a dysfunction.

At this point you should take some time to consider the implications of the preliminary diagnosis.

Some of the five functions will be performed by people or departments which clearly don’t have the resources to do the job adequately.

In some cases the entire Metasystem will be performed informally, and that may be fine.

There will be some jobs which are left on your list after filling in the VSM. Are they necessary? Some will be support jobs, like machine maintenance. The computer department is a facilitator, which makes things happen more smoothly and quickly. Both these jobs are clearly useful.But what about some of the committees? Are they really essential to viability?

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