What is Management Cybernetics? (1984) | Barry Clemson (with Allenna Leonard) | October 28, 2011 | barryclemson.net

The 22 laws, principles and theorems of management cybernetics by Barry Clemson and @allennaleonard are can be applied to describe an organization.

In my 1984  introductory book on management cybernetics … Allenna Leonard and I listed 22 laws, principles, and theorems of management cybernetics. Ern Reynolds then suggested a very useful exercise: paste the name of your organization in place of the word “system” in the 22 laws, principles and theorems. You will then have a useful cybernetic description of your organization.

Here are the 22 laws, principles and theorems.

1. System Holism Principle: A system has holistic properties possessed by none of its parts. Each of the system parts has properties not possessed by the system as a whole.

2. Darkness Principle: no system can be known completely.

3. Eighty-Twenty Principle: In any large, complex system, eighty percent of the output will be produced by only twenty percent of the system.

4. Complementarity Law: Any two different perspectives (or models) about a system will reveal truths about that system that are neither entirely independent nor entirely compatible.

5. Hierarchy Principle: Complex natural phenomena are organized in hierarchies with each level made up of several integral systems.

6. Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem: All consistent axiomatic foundations of number theory include undecidable propositions.

7. Entropy – the Second Law of Thermodynamics: In any closed system the differences in energy can only stay the same or decrease over time; or, in any closed system the amount of order (or organization) can never increase and must eventually decrease.

8. Redundancy of Information Theorem: Errors in information transmission can be protected against (to any level of confidence required) by increasing the redundancy in the messages.

9. Redundancy of Resources Principle: Maintenance of stability under conditions of disturbance requires redundancy of critical resources.

10. Redundancy of Potential Command Principle: In any complex decision network, the potential to act effectively is conferred by an adequate concatenation of information.

11. Relaxation time Principle: System stability is possible only if the system’s relaxation time is shorter than the mean time between disturbances.

12. Circular Causality Principle One: Given positive feedback (i.e., a two-part system in which each stimulates any initial change in the other), radically different end states are possible from the same initial conditions.

13. Circular Causality Principle Two: Given negative feedback (i.e., a two-part system in which each part tends to offset any change in the other), the equiibrial state is invariant over a wide range of initial conditions.

14. Feedback dominance theorem: For high gain amplifiers, the feedback dominates the output over wide variations in input.

15. Homeostasis Principle: A system survives only so long as all essential variables are maintained within their physiological limits.

16. Steady State Principle: If a system is in a state of equilibrium (a steady state), then all sub-systems must be in equilibrium. If all sub-systems are in a state of equilibrium, then the system must be in equilibrium.

17. Requisite Variety Law: The control achievable by a given regulatory sub-system over a given system is limited by 1) the variety of the regulator, and 2) the channel capacity between the regulator and the system.

18. Conant-Ashby theorem: Every good regulator of a system must be a model of that system.

19. Self-Organizing Systems Principle: Complex systems organize themselves; the characteristic structural and behavioral patterns in a complex system are primarily a result of the interactions among the system parts.

20. Basins of Stability Principle: Complex systems have basins of stability separated by thresholds of instability. A system “parked” on a ridge will “roll downhill”.

21. Viability Principle: Viability is a function of the balance maintained along two dimensions: 1) autonomy of sub-systems versus integration of the system as a whole, and 2) stability versus adaptation.

22. Recursive System Theorem: If a viable system contains a viable system, then the organizational structure must be recursive; or, in a recursive organizational structure, any viable system contains, and is contained in, a viable system.

Allenna Leonard and I articulated these 22 “laws” in 1982 or 1983. I hope we can think about this again in the near future and perhaps add a few more.

Originally posted as “What is Management Cybernetics?” | Barry Clemson | October 28, 2011 | barryclemson.net http://www.barryclemson.net/archives/939.

Via reposting as “What is #Management #Cybernetics? 22 laws by Barry Clemson (#stwg #systemsthinking)” | Nicolas Stamp | Nov. 12, 2012 | at http://www.appreciatingsystems.com/2012/11/what-is-management-cybernetics-22-laws-by-barry-clemson-stwg-systemsthinking/

What is Management Cybernetics? | Barry Clemson


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One comment on “What is Management Cybernetics? (1984) | Barry Clemson (with Allenna Leonard) | October 28, 2011 | barryclemson.net
  1. Can you articulate a principle that captures the idea that all observable systems must have self-sustaining feedbacks built into their structure, because otherwise they wouldnt endure long enough for anyone to be able to observe them.


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