Introduction to the notion
Cybernetics teaches us that a system can only be controlled through its retroactions. This applies to the organization as much as to the machine or animal. Applying the retroaction principle brings the designer to strengthen the processes and increase the control that the organization has over itself. Several transcriptions have been given, such as the Deming wheel.
The retroactions have to be read on the process diagram. There are two types:
- From an operational point of view, they consist of feeding back the information in the opposite direction to the principal process flow and for each instance being processed. They enable any potential malfunctions to be corrected.
- From a managerial point of view, they inform the hierarchical level above – “hierarchical” is taken here in both an organization sense and an activity decomposition sense. So, the retroactions can trigger a rethink of the operations and lead to a transformation.
The organization puts loops and feedback into place, thanks to which it can continually adjust its activities.
This retroaction information provides information about the flow and quality of the activities. The retroaction loop can be described as “horizontal”: it is included in the process flow and corresponds to the primary correction, enabling the operations to be instantly corrected. The feedback of information, in a manner of speaking “vertical”, enables a secondary correction, with the operations being redesigned. Formally, this principle is translated, on the one hand, by adding backward flows in the process flow and, on the other hand, by exploiting the properties of the activities (the indicators).