systemic organisational development

application of biomatrix systems theory to organisational development

systemic organisational development: introduction to seven forces of system organisation

Seven forces of system organisation is a comprehensive and theoretically sound framework for understanding organisational development, management and change.

This framework allows managers to diagnose deficiencies in the development of their organisations and provides the principles according to which these deficiencies can be remedied. It also allows managers to contextualise the different change initiatives in their organisation and to assess their relevance in the context of the organisation as a whole. Most importantly, it provides a holistic and synergistic understanding of organisational functioning appropriate for the information age. After completing our module on the Biomatrix systems approach to organisational development and change in their MBA course, delegates often remark: “Now we understand, how everything we learned during our MBA studies hangs together.”  To transmit such understanding is our aim.

It is our experience that if the various widely-used management approaches and tools are placed into a systemic context, their effectiveness will be enhanced. We briefly mention some of the most common management models and approaches, however, it is not our intention to explain them in detail. Our aim is to contextualise them within the systemic framework of the biomatrix. We would like to make managers aware of where each approach fits in terms of systemic organisational development.

Some managers hold the view that management models and approaches are “fads” that go in and out of fashion and replace each other in rapid succession. We hold the view that each has an appropriate niche within which it makes a useful contribution. Biomatrix systems theory provides a framework within which these niches can be assessed.

On the basis of this framework, managers will be able to diagnose shortcomings within their organisation and select the appropriate interventions, using experts in that field. The manager has the responsibility of holding the meta-view to ensure that each intervention is coherent in terms of all seven organisational forces.

framework overview

As discussed in the video, according to Biomatrix systems theory one can observe seven organising forces within a system. Each force shapes the system in a specific way. In their interaction with each other, these forces are responsible for shaping the system, determining its behaviour and destiny.

The seven forces are environmental relations, ethos, aims, process, structure, governance and mei (i.e. substance or resources of the system). 

Each of the seven forces plays a different, albeit equally important role in the development of an organisation.

organisational development - seven system forces

Systemic organisational development implies that

  • each organisational force of a system needs to be developed
  • there is coherence between the seven forces of organisation. If some of the forces are in conflict with one another, they will pull the system into different directions, creating chaos. Thus, optimal organisational development demands that each force is in harmony with all the others and that organisational change initiatives are designed in such a way that they are mutually reinforcing.

Both points of organisational development are discussed throughout the Biomatrix programmes.

relevant key thoughts of biomatrix systems theory

The following key thoughts of Biomatrix systems theory are discussed in the modules of the Biomatrix Management Education Programme and form the backdrop to this framework:

  • Within the web of the biomatrix, which consists of string-like activity systems and knot-like entity systems, an organisation can be viewed from a knot (i.e. entity system) perspective and a string (i.e. activity system) perspective.
  • If one looks closer at a knot in a web, one discovers that the knot actually consists of interacting strings. Likewise, at closer inspection, an organisation dissolves into a web of activity systems (i.e. its various functional and business processes).
  • One can focus on the organisation of each individual activity system. This is the focus in business process engineering.
  • One can also extend each activity system into the larger web of the biomatrix, viewing it as part of a supply chain. This is the focus of supply chain management.
  • These supply chains link up with each other through tapping. Thus, the boundaries of an organisational entity are located where each of its activity systems is tapped.
  •  One can also focus on the pattern of the knot, or how its threads are organised. According to Biomatrix systems theory, entity systems have a threefold organisation which gives rise to a three-dimensional matrix organisation.
  • Within the matrix, each activity system can be seen as extending into the inner and outer environments of the matrix, each being part of its own supply chain. This results in the web view of the organisation.
  •  Through the interaction of the activity systems within the matrix, synergies are created that give rise to the view of the organisation as a coherent whole, organised around its ethos. This provides the field view of the organisation.
  • In analysing the entity system and each of its activity systems, one can use the seven forces of organisation as a framework. These are the ethos, aims, process, structure, governance, substance and environmental aspects.
  • An organisation, like any other system, spans conceptual and physical reality. The ethos, aims and governance aspects of the organisation are part of conceptual reality, as are its information resources and conceptual structures (e.g. the organogram). They in-form the physical processes (mei flow) and physical structures (mei configurations) of the organisation. If conceptual reality changes, it will redirect the physical reality of the system. The form of the system will change; it will be transformed. Likewise, conceptual reality is influenced by changes in physical reality.
  • An organisation, like any other system, emerges across three levels: from the interaction with its outer environment, inner environments and the self. The organisation and its environment co-evolve together. Thus, besides managing itself, the organisation needs to exert deliberate influence on its environment.
  • An organisation needs to create balance within itself, between its outward, inward and self-directed activity systems, as well as between the organisation itself and its environment.

learn more

To learn more about Biomatrix systems theory in general, visit and browse the free presentation.

To learn more about application of Biomatrix systems theory to organisational development and change management, consider purchasing one of our books, or facilitate in your organisation one of our management education courses or development programmes.