Original Research

Organisational cybernetics: A systems thinking method used for small and medium enterprises

Vinay Bugwandin, Mohamed S. Bayat
Acta Commercii | Vol 23, No 1 | a1092 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v23i1.1092 | © 2023 Vinay Bugwandin, Mohamed S. Bayat | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 August 2022 | Published: 01 March 2023

About the author(s)

Vinay Bugwandin, Department of Entrepreneurial Studies and Management, Faculty of Management Sciences, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa
Mohamed S. Bayat, Department of Public Administration, Faculty of Management and Commerce, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa


Orientation: Systems thinking stems from the Twenties and has constantly developed over the years in assisting sectors in operations, management and the environment in checking for interdependencies, interconnections and coherence in all aspects of the elements inputted. In particular, the viable systems model in organisational cybernetics of systems thinking can be considered as a tool used for validating elements and being goal-oriented in nature.

Research purpose: The purpose of this research is to showcase the role and influence that the viable systems model in organisation cybernetics has in a study conducted on small and medium enterprises.

Motivation for the study: In the business world, there is a profound need for organisations to ensure that process flows are maintained to achieve sustainability. The systems thinking approach ensures that process flows are maintained; however, they have proven to be robust in validating elements and achieving goals. In this regard, this study encourages organisations to embrace and utilise systems thinking approaches to improve productivity and, ultimately, sustainability.

Research design, approach and method: In conjunction with the mixed methodology approach, namely the Statistical Package for Social Sciences for quantitative research and NVivo for qualitative research, the viable systems model in organisational cybernetics was used in this empirical study.

Main findings: The core element of ‘strategy’ and the subelements of ‘change’, ‘purpose’ and ‘leadership’ were investigated. It was found that ‘change’, ‘purpose’ and ‘leadership’ were the main contributors towards achieving sustainability. Furthermore, a systems thinking model – the viable systems model – was used successfully to indicate the interdependencies to purport the goal of achieving sustainability. Ultimately, it was found that ‘strategy’, ‘change’, ‘purpose’ and ‘leadership’ were required to achieve a ‘sustainable business strategy’.

Practical/managerial implications: Leaders should consider the use of systems thinking as a tool to ensure the output of a robust process flow, increased productivity and good governance in their organisations.

Contribution/value-add: The viable systems model in organisational cybernetics proved to be successful in checking for interconnections, interdependencies and coherence of the elements used in the research study. Researchers in today’s era should consider the use of systems thinking in future research studies.


Viable systems model; systems thinking; organisational cybernetics; management; strategy.

JEL Codes

C88: Other Computer Software; M10: General; M19: Other

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities


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