Complex and Dynamical Social Network Analysis as a Tool to Support a Sustainable Organizational Design and Management Process

Complex and Dynamical Social Network Analysis as a Tool to Support a Sustainable Organizational Design and Management Process

Carlo Drago (University of Rome “Niccolò Cusano”, Rome, Italy) and Giovanni Paolo Sellitto (B.S.Lab, Avellion, Italy)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/IJSS.2015070102


In the Viable System Approach, the firm and its environment form a complex system, modelled as a network of networks. This paper explores how some tools coming from the research on Complex Networks are applicable to the firm and its environment in the context of Business Development Plan. A brief survey of the main concepts underlying the Viable System Approach (VSA) and of the very last results attained in the Complex Network Theory (CNT) is presented, focusing on the results regarding the dynamical processes on Complex Networks. Some correspondence between the main entities in the two frameworks will be derived, to highlight the possible contribution of CNT to the government and the management of the firm as a Viable System. This paper doesn't expect to be exhaustive because of the topic complexity and the still ongoing research's work. In the business case, the Social Network Analysis tools are applied into the business reengineering process.
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2. System Thinking And The Viable System Approach (Vsa)

In the Viable System Approach (Stafford Beer, 1972), the firm is a set of tangible and intangible resources purposefully oriented towards the accomplishment of some objectives. Through its internal dynamics, the firm can guarantee its own survival in a specific environmental context.

As a viable system, it is capable of maintaining its identity while evolving and it can modify its logic and physical organization to maintain a homeostatic balance with the surrounding systems. Homeostasis is a specific property of open systems, which can modify their own internal environment to respond effectively to stimuli coming from the external environment. Living organisms can maintain this balance thanks to particular processes, through which they are able to respond effectively to the stimuli coming from the external environment, creating their own internal environment. We can find the same self-regulating capabilities also in social and biological systems, like the firm. Feedback loops and information flows have a major role in regulating the balance between the system and the environment and one of the most important results stemming by the cybernetic research lays in the recognition and formalization of the laws underlying the effectiveness of these controls and in making these laws actionable to build self-regulating artifacts.

We can consider the firm as a system made up by the physical structure and by the patterns of connections between its constituent elements; this is called organization design. The information flows give shape to the system structure and the organization design defines the map of the possible relationships between the components of the system (extended structure).

Sustainability and Consonance are critical issues for the viability of a firm, but often the management limits their scope to environmental and economic issues, unaware of the role played by information and culture. To overcome this difficulty, the Italian management school postulates the need for a decision maker (government) that controls the evolutionary dynamics of the firm, guiding the organizational units and the social communities towards the formation of a synergistic ensemble (Golinelli, 2010). The government through a business development plan gives shape, consistency and development perspectives to the firm in a system’s perspective. Consonance implies the definition of harmonic relations between all the organizational units. To achieve Resonance with the environment we must govern the internal dynamics and the interaction between the units and the external stakeholders through harmonic choreographies.

In Figure 1, the phases of a typical business development plan are reported. The business case roughly follows this plan.

Figure 1.

Phases of a typical Business Development Plan

The concepts of ideal, actual and extended structure, organization plan, organization design and select structure are the foundation of the system; In the table for each term is reported the meaning of the concept:

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