Covid-19: why did the virus take us by surprise? What we can learn from Covid-19 about the control of systems and organizations based on the Viable System Model

Wolfgang Lassl
15 July 2020

The Covid-19 crisis is a cataclysmic event and caught us all by surprise. It is considered a health and economic crisis, but at the same time and rarely discussed, it also reveals the weaknesses in the systemic processes in our society and organizations. The Viable System Model (VSM) by Stafford Beer allows us to structure the various weaknesses and to put them into a coherent framework. The VSM postulates that all social systems need a minimum set of systemic functions to become viable. This article explains the vital role of these systemic functions during the Covid 19 crisis. It discusses how their (in)adequate functioning decides about the prevention and mastery of the crisis. The VSM offers thus a formal framework to better understand the systemic processes needed for the prevention and mastery of crisis.