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.



The synergetic functioning of the subsystems within a system.

General coordination depends on some elements being widely connected into the different parts of the system, in such a way as to be able among them to collect the most complete and recent information about the system as a whole and use it to avoid incompatibilities between processes.

This is the case for instance of some neurons whose axons diverge into the whole brain (J.P. CHANGEUX, 1992, p.710), or of the national political and administrative subsystem within a country.

Coordination tends to be, but is not necessarily automatic, specially in human systems.

M.D. MESAROVIC, D. MACKO and Y. TAKAHARA state: "To coordinate the subsystems is to influence them so that they function or act harmoniously, such as one would coordinate the activities of individuals or groups within an organization. To make this idea of coordination operational, one has to define more explicitely what is meant by "acting harmoniously". In general, "this is done in reference to a goal or objective, so that the whole achieves the stated objective".

"Coordination is the task of the supremal control system, in which it attempts to cause a harmonious functioning of the infimal control system.

"The success of the supremal in its task of coordination is judged relative to a given overall goal of the two-level system. Since the infimal control systems operate so as to achieve their own individual goals, a conflict generally develops among them and results in a prescribed overall goal most likely not being attained. The task of a coordinator is precisely aimed at reducing the consequences of such an intra-organizational conflict, if not to eliminate it altogether" (1970, p.93-4).

The same authors distinguish the following types of coordination:

- interactive – predictive: "The supremal unit specifies the interface input, and the infimal units proceed to solve their local decision problems on the assumption that the interface input will be exactly as predicted by the supremal unit"

- interactive – estimative: "The supremal unit specifies a range of values for the interface inputs, and the infimal units treat the interface inputs as disturbances which can assume any value in the given range"

- interactive – decoupling: "The infimal units treat the interface input as an additional decision variable; they solve their decision problems as if the value of the interface input could be chosen at will"

- load-type: "The infimal units recognize the existence of other decision units on the same level; the supremal unit provides the infimal units with a model of the relationship between its action and the response of the system"

- coalition-type: "The infimal units recognize the existence of other decision units on the same level; the supremal unit specifies what kind of communications are allowed between them. This leads to a coalition or competitive (game theoric type) relationship between the infimal units" (1970. p.59-60).

All in all these 1970 comments mostly reflect a quite traditional top-down authoritarian view of coordination. The heterarchical or holographic view of organizations which appeared more recently suggests that coordination is notably furthered by reciprocal understanding among subsystems.

Coordination is also obvious in natural systems – biological or ecological – and it is by no means evident that it is done in an exclusively hierarchical way.


  • 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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