The notion of a system has a strong history through the works of, inter alia, Forrester, Checkland, and Beer; in searching for theory to provide substance to service systems research each can provide valuable insights. Systems theory is the study of complex adaptive wholes; the focus is on the whole rather than the parts and Systems can be studied in at least two ways: their state – what are their properties and their dynamics - how they behave. The LRV, introduced by Ashby and developed by Beer in his examination of viable systems, concerns the behaviour of systems. The LRV states that the organisation must be able to deal with, by matching, the variety introduced by the external environment, in the case of service organisations this is the customer, in order to remain viable. Understanding the nature of customer variety and how to deal with it is important for service organisations since variety provides both a challenge and an opportunity. This paper seeks to explore and operationalise variety in a service context.
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