Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management & Systems Engineering

Committee Director

Charles B. Keating

Committee Member

Rafael Landaeta

Committee Member

Pilar Pazos

Committee Member

James C. Pyne


The purpose of this research was to explore the applicability of the Viable System Model as a framework for structural analysis of Project Management Systems using a case study approach. The research used a modified Viable System Model based on the work of Stafford Beer (1979) for the analysis of systems (organizations). The specific research questions explored in this research were: (1) How can the Viable System Model (VSM) be adapted for analysis of project management structure? And, (2) What results from exploration of the Viable System Model framework application to active project management structures?

The research used an exploratory case study method (Yin 2009) to explore the research questions. The research was designed as a multiple case study of two projects within a government based engineering services enterprise. The research, including data collection, analysis, and reporting was accommodated by a government based engineering group to support research aims related to studying Project Management Systems.

A modified Viable Systems Model (VSM) framework based on management cybernetics of Stafford Beer (1966, 1981, 1979, 1985, and 1994) was developed for application to project management system structure. Following construction of the VSM framework, adapted for project management systems, qualitative data was collected in the form of discussions, meetings, process documents, project documents, and observation notes. The collected data was incorporated into a case study database. The case study database was used to extrapolate emergent themes and issues needed for the development of the case study narratives. The construction of the emergent themes and issues followed the coding regiment from grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 2008). A case study narrative was produced for each of the two case studies and project participants were provided a copy for face validation (content and accurate capture of perspectives) from which the final narratives were constructed. The reviewed case study narratives were then incorporated into the final case study narratives. A cross case analysis, between the two focal projects, was performed. The research conclusions and implications were reported and implications for further research were developed in the results sections.