Investigating Complexity Management in Product Service Systems: A Cybernetics Perspective

  • Emmanuel Musa

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research examines complexity management in the context of Product Service Systems.
Product Service Systems are a configuration of product, service, technologies, human actors,
and facilities to create value. The delivery of outcomes through a Product Service System is
fraught with complexity. Current studies on complexity management in the context of Product
Service System are fragmented; context specific, industry specific and address specific
aspects of the delivery system.

This research explores complexity management in Product Service Systems using the Viable
System Model (VSM) as an epistemological lens. Principles and concepts underlying the VSM
were applied, including Stafford Beer’s Variety Engineering and Ashby’s Law of Requisite
Variety, to develop a VSM-Based Complexity Management framework.

Using multiple case study research strategy, the research found three mechanisms underlying
complexity management in Product Service System context. These mechanisms are
connectivity, collaboration, and flexibility. Further analysis shows that these three mechanisms
are anchored on a knowledge management strategy designed and implemented by PSS
companies to develop requisite variety and drive viability.

Identifying a relationship between knowledge, organisational learning, and complexity
management permits the integration of concepts and models from both literature and fields to
understand survival strategy in firms offering PSS.
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAndrew Greasley (Supervisor) & Pavel Albores (Supervisor)


  • Complexity management
  • Product service system
  • Viable system model
  • Knowledge management

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