Feasibility-Oriented Application of System Analysis in SMEs-The Cybernetic Approach of VSM Applied to Horticultural Retail Companies in Germany

A. Gabriel, V. Bitsch, K. Menrad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Many approaches of business analysis focus on single disciplines or specific problems but ignore complex and dynamic interrelations between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), their stakeholders, and their business environment. In order to meet these challenges, the system analysis tool Vester sensitivity model (VSM) is applied on a reference company representative of the German horticultural retail sector. Based on the principles of system theory and (bio-) cybernetics, the VSM system building tool uses net thinking, heuristics, and a participatory approach to illustrate and evaluate the systemic role of relevant key variables, and their interrelations in the example company. In this article, the analytical steps of the VSM are applied up to the finalized effect system model of the reference company. As an innovative aspect, the article emphasizes how the multilevel process of the system analysis can be put into practice more effectively by using interactive media tools to enable the required communication and consensus by the participating stakeholder panel. Elements such as the manager’s ability of strategic planning, the organizational climate, and the company’s image were uncovered as critical, but also stabilizing key factors for such companies. Although the study focuses on the specific situation of German horticultural retail companies as the research subject, the suggested procedure of integrated knowledge generation is transferrable to any business, industry branch, and country. Especially scholars, advisors, and business analysts working in the field of SME management can use the concept to evaluate such systems in the overall context of the companies under investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-172
Number of pages28
JournalSystemic Practice and Action Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • Business analysis
  • Participatory approach
  • Retail companies
  • Small and medium-sized enterprises
  • System theory
  • Vester sensitivity model


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