To me, one of the keys here is the perhaps least-known part of the Viable System Model (VSM) – the algedonic link.
‘Algedonic’ literally means ‘of pain/pleasure’, and, as the Wikipedia entry for VSM explains:
Algedonic alerts … are alarms and rewards that escalate through the levels of recursion when actual performance fails or exceeds capability, typically after a timeout.
In classic VSM, examples might include a ‘stop-the-line’ signal on an assembly-line, or an error-message percolating up the code-hierarchy within a computer-application.
For various practical reasons, descriptions of algedonic signal-channels are often absent from standard VSM reference diagrams…
Which can lead to serious gaps in system-design, or even misinterpretation of VSM as just another Taylorist top-down hierarchy. But some versions of the VSM base diagram do illustrate algedonic links, such as in this example by Nick Green
…showing ‘Algedonic Alerting’ as a black dotted-line link from VSM system-1 to systems-3, -4 and -5:
Even there, it somewhat misses the point, because algedonic signals won’t traverse solely to the ‘direction’ elements (systems-3, -4, -5) of the current recursion, but may be sourced anywhere, and likewise need to be vectored to and/or picked up anywhere. For example, if the ship is in danger, and the danger has been spotted only by the most junior-ranking crew-member, that message needs to go as quickly as possible to where it needs to go – not trickle slowly up and down the respective hierarchies.
Which, with a bit of exploration around this, kinda indicates that algedonic-signals may not only need to break the hierarchy, but may go not just upward but in any direction – up, down, sideways, round – and also may need to be