work in Russia
IT Department of the MMK - http://www.mmk.ru/eng/index.wbp
To my knowledge
Stafford Beer’s ideas were first disseminated in Russia in 1965 with the translation
into Russian of his book “Cybernetics and Management”. His book “Management
science” was translated in 1967 as were some of his papers describing
enterprises as living organisms with 5-levels of interconnected systems. But
the most significant breakthrough in the dissemination of his ideas took place in
1993 with the translation and publication of “Brain of the Firm”. This book
triggered many discussions and related publications. Several centers emerged to
study the VSM, which led to projects implementing the VSM and more
specifically to the implementation of operation rooms following Beer’s work in Chile.
Unfortunately, in spite of the efforts made, the principles used in building
these rooms were not always consistent with those of the VSM. For example
attempts to filter and compress information from System 1 to System 5,
simulation models of “technological transformations” ,
structure of the model and the implementation of “algedonic”
control chains were rather poor.
“Study centres” for
Beer’s ideas were organized in Novosibirsk
and in Moscow.
The Novosibirsk Centre was headed by Vladimir Khtsenko
) who has included a chapter about the VSM in his book “Self-organization” . The Moscow Centre, at
the System Integration and Management chair
(SIM- http://sim-mfti.ru/it/ - the
– the MIPT (http://www.phystech.edu/ ),
has been headed by Vadim Shishov
(firstname.lastname@example.org). As a result of
this interest Andrey Sergeev
was sent to the University
of Sunderland, under the
TACIS Programme, where Stafford Beer and Alfredo Moscardini supervised his doctoral dissertation, focused on
an implementation of the VSM.
A new wave of interest in Stafford Beer’s ideas arose after his death in 2002 and the 30th anniversary of the Pinochet’s coup in Chile.
Four papers were published with an analysis of Beer’s heritage during 2003-2004:
“Stafford Beer and the Future of IT” (http://www.ototsky.mgn.ru/it/beer_in_computerra.html
), “To the Cybercommunism question” (http://www.ototsky.mgn.ru/it/beer_in_computerra2.html
), “Lessons of Stafford Beer” (http://ototsky.mgn.ru/it/lessons.htm
) and “Stafford Beer and viable systems in the XXI Century” (http://old.sim-mfti.ru/content/-fl=182&doc=1012.htm
Also a website
was developed in memory of Stafford Beer (http://www.ototsky.mgn.ru/it/beer_menu.html
) , and a new series to publish his books was set up
by the URSS Editorial in Moscow
( http://www.urss.ru/ ). There is a special
interest in the relevance of organizational cybernetics to the study of the growing bureaucratic structures in the new Russia.
This interest is manifest in the already referred paper “Lessons of Stafford
Beer”. An updated version of
this paper has been published in the SIM Project website, under
the title “Stafford Beer as Guru for the Electronic Russia”.
Another source of interest is the increasing
number of analytical reports about Enterprise-architecture and Enterprise Resources Planning. New tools such as OLAP, Business Intelligence
and Alert are improving the old style performance indices reports. New directions to solve this problem such as the Balanced
Score Card (BSC) and the Theory Of Constrains (TOC)
have empirical foundations and lack the deep theoretical approach of the VSM.
The TOC community is starting to see their connection with the VSM ( http://www.ototsky.mgn.ru/it/t_times2001.htm
). The BSC community (as
it has become clear in correspondence with Kaplan) is not acquainted with the
Beer’s work and has invented “their wheel” independently.
Another reason for the interest in Beer’s ideas goes far
boundaries. It is connected with the growing complexity of human made systems
(artifacts) in different social domains. For example IBM regards “complexity”
as the main obstacle to the growth of IT and their new Autonomic Computing
approach has many features of the VSM (http://www.zurich.ibm.com/pdf/ebizz/idd-ac.pdf
). Charles Herring’s “The Viable Software” uses the VSM as one of its
theoretical foundations (http://charles-herring.com/Thesis/ViableSoftware.pdf
). Of course further developments of the VSM are necessary, but this model
offers a solid theoretical ground. Some features of such developments are
highlighted in the paper “To keep abreast of the 21st Century” http://www.ototsky.mgn.ru/it/21abreast.htm
). Main challenges are the integration of the VSM with Maturana
and Varela’s autopoiesis and Alexei Sharov’s biosemiotics.
Finally, and most fundamentally, is the
relevance of Beer’s ideas to the viability of our modern civilization and the
need for social changes in the globalised world of the 21st Century (following
the concerns of Norbert Wiener’s in “Cybernetics and society”). As I stress in the paper “Lessons of Stafford
Beer”, in his “World in Torment” paper Beer looks at the present situation with
deep pessimism: “Soviet communism has accepted its own demise; Western
capitalism has not accepted it yet” ( http://ototsky.mgn.ru/vsm/