Proper Rate Of Learning LO1276
Wed, 17 May 1995 14:49:51 -0400

Peter von Stackelberg says

"I think we need to recognize that a proper balance
between resistance to change and embracing
change must be achieved for organizations to
function in an optimal manner".

Michael McMasters argues that this is a new issue,
separate from the question of resistance to change.
I agree and argue with use of the term "resistnce to
change" elsewhere.

Stafford Beer has extensively explored the issue
that I think Peter is raising. Beer expresses it sort
of like this: the organization must maintain internal
stability (homeostasis) while it simultaneously
adapts - evolves - changes at an appropriate rate to
maintain its unique identity within its chosen
environment. Beer also makes it very plain that
learning is a major component of this change.

The first half of the imperative (maintenance of
internal stability) is of course crucial - paychecks
must be prepared on time and widgets must be
manufactured and shipped.....

The second half says that the rate of change must
be APPROPRIATE in terms of the identity (vision,
mission, business they are in, style, etc.) and the
particular environment they have selected for
themselves. While most organizations struggle to
change fast enough to keep up with their
environments, it is possible for the organization to
change too fast for its environment.

Beer's writing on this topic is part of his very
sophisticated framework called the viable system
model (VSM). This model has grown out of about 30
years of practice in a huge variety of different
types of organizations. Beer's books on the VSM are
all published by John Wiley and Son (e.g., Brain of
the Firm, Heart of Enterprise, Diagnosing the

Barry Clemson
Center for Organizational Systems Engineering
Old Dominion University