International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics

2nd Edition, as published by Charles François 2004 Presented by the Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science Vienna for public access.


The International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics was first edited and published by the system scientist Charles François in 1997. The online version that is provided here was based on the 2nd edition in 2004. It was uploaded and gifted to the center by ASC president Michael Lissack in 2019; the BCSSS purchased the rights for the re-publication of this volume in 200?. In 2018, the original editor expressed his wish to pass on the stewardship over the maintenance and further development of the encyclopedia to the Bertalanffy Center. In the future, the BCSSS seeks to further develop the encyclopedia by open collaboration within the systems sciences. Until the center has found and been able to implement an adequate technical solution for this, the static website is made accessible for the benefit of public scholarship and education.



"A preprogrammed behavioral policy" (R. DAWKINS, 1978, p.74).

Such a program normaly covers long term planning.

Tactics are, or should be, subservient to strategy.

According to R. ACKOFF, who reproduces an older definition by himself (1974): "Strategy is concerned with long-range objectives and ways of pursuing them that affect the system as a whole, tactics are concerned with shorter- run goals and means to reaching them that generally affect only a part of the organization" (1990, p.523)

While "the focus of tactical decisions is efficiency the focus of strategic decisions is growth".

Strategic decisions are at times still more fundamental, as they may have to see with the very survival of the organization.

ACKOFF further distinguishes normative decisions "which have an infinite perspective because they focus on ideals, ends that can never be obtained but that can be approached without limit. The focus of normative decisions is effectiveness (which, in contrast to efficiency, is a value-loaded concept) and development (which in contrast to growth, has nothing to do with size or number, but with an increase in one's ability and desire to satisfy one's own needs and desires and those of others" (Ibid).

E. MORIN observes that any strategy should include the consciousness of uncertainty in general (1999a, p. 66). Any strategy operates through a program: "The program is efficient within stable external conditions that can be established in a secure manner. However the least perturbation of these conditions destabilizes the program's execution and tends to block it"(p. 66)

Finally, we must always navigate in "an ocean of uncertainty with some archipels of certainty"(1999b, p. 17)

If there is no awareness of any uncertainty, then the strategy and the program are mere bets based on unsustained beliefs and can easily lead to disaster.

Of course, strategy is the activity of a strategist, i.e. a leader who, in a more or less hierarchical and even autocratic way, decides about the future course of the system.

In a sense, this reflects a deeply ingrained deterministic model and is antagonistic to the concept of self-organized behavior for the system.

The possibility to reconcile both models and how eventually to do it, remain two open questions.

Strategies should also care for global transformations, with special care for the proper and permanent harmonization of the various processes and functions, in order to guarantee not only long-term efficiency, but also resilience and survival conditions.

These aspects must be paramount in the definition of pursued goals. Most man-made messes result from ignoring such traps.


  • 1) General information
  • 2) Methodology or model
  • 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
  • 4) Human sciences
  • 5) Discipline oriented


Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science(2020).

To cite this page, please use the following information:

Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]

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