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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