function design course          $600/$900

about this online course

The Function Design Course explains the underlying theory (i.e. Biomatrix Theory) and methodology of the (re)design and development of an organizational function (an organizational and business support function, a central service function). It outlines the seven forces of organization (environment, ethos, aims, process, structure, governance and substance) that co-produce all systems and the organizing principles that are relevant to the design of a system in general and of an organizational function specifically. It designs a functional system as a sustainable and coherently organized and governed value and supply chain.

It covers both the strategic and operational perspectives. Strategic considerations include the purpose, ideal development and outcomes of the function, its strategic contribution to other functions and the organization as a whole. Operational considerations focus on the efficiency of the goods or service delivery.

The course also guides participants to apply the knowledge to a chosen case study system (e.g. the work function of which they are part). Through self-reflective and template-driven assignments they analyze its complex problems, brainstorm solutions, create an ideal design and plan the implementation of the design.

why the course is needed

Most systems are confronted by complex problems that are co-produced by rapid environmental and organizational change. As the environment continues to change, it impacts on the function itself, as well as on the whole organization and its other functional parts. These impacts can be threats or opportunities.

Managers need to learn to deal with such challenges. They need to dissolve the complex problems in their function by redesigning it in such a manner that it can deal with ongoing environmental and organizational change, keep developing and continue to deliver creative and sustainable outcomes for the whole organization and each of its functional parts.

target audience

The target audience includes

  • heads and senior managers of functional departments
  • consultants, change managers and facilitators concerned with restructuring and transforming business and organization support and central service functions in organizations
  • IT specialists who structure the information flow within and between organizational functions.

the course as a learning investment

After completing the course the participants will

  • think more (w)holistically and creatively
  • know the generic principles of how systems in general and functional systems specifically are organized, develop and change
  • understand the theory and methodology of function (re)design and transformation from both a strategic and operational perspective
  • understand the difference between design and implementation planning
  • be able to create a design and implementation plan for transforming any personal or organizational function
  • learn the difference between a project, function and business process and apply the knowledge to the design and management of these types of systems.

Participants of an open enrolment course may not be able to produce a complete and implementable design of the whole function of which they are a part, as this would require information from and participation by representatives of other sub-functions.  They will however be able to produce a high level draft design and broad implementation plan that can serve as basis for discussions with the other stakeholders on how to transform the shared system.

In an in-house course delivery to a corporate client wanting a function redesign, the course outcome will be an implementable ideal design, provided that representatives of all parts of the system take part in the course.  After the course the participants facilitate the implementation of the design and thereby transforming the system.

content of the course

The course consists of four e-learning modules. During each module, the participants apply the learned theory in template-based exercises to their case study system and reflect on the theory and methodology.

module 1: overview of general and Biomatrix systems theory

This module explains the key concepts of systems and complexity theories in general and Biomatrix theory specifically.

The exercises generate a (w)holistic view of the world and an understanding of sustainable behavior.

module 2: systemic problem (dis)solving

This module explains the theory for understanding complex problems and the methodology for (dis)solving them through ideal system redesign. It also provides tools for systemic problem analysis and brainstorming.

The exercises involve identifying current problems related to the case study function and brainstorming ideas for (dis)solving them. The output from the exercises is further processed in the following module.

module 3: seven forces of system organization (activity system perspective)

This module is concerned with system design. It explains the principles of how systems are organized in general and how activity systems (e.g. a project, function, or supply / value chain) are organized specifically.

It describes the seven organizing forces (environment, ethos, aims, process, structure, governance and substance) that co-produce an activity system. It also explores the application of these forces to the functioning and design of the system as a sustainable supply chain that produces desirable value for all its stakeholders.

The exercises involve the creation of an ideal seven-faceted design for the participant’s case study function and its sub-functions.

module 4: implementation planning

This module explains the difference between a design and implementation plan and outlines the criteria and steps involved in planning the implementation of a design.

The exercises involve making an implementation plan for the ideal design produced in the previous module and for evaluating the success of its implementation.

see other courses and programmes

The Function Design Course is one of several Biomatrix Design Courses which educate senior managers and decision-makers in the theory and methodology of sustainable system design and complex problem solving. The courses are based on Biomatrix theory which explains how systems are organized, change and develop.

project design course
organization design course
business process design course
public/private partnership design course
industry design course
public policy and governance design course
MOOC: complex problem solving

in-house programmes


duration of the course

The average duration of the course is 7 months based on 1 day per week (i.e. about 28 days), to be completed within a year.

However, some participants could take considerably less or more time to complete the course, depending on their mode of study, work experience and nature of case study.


We offer two pricing options for the self-managed course. The content and assignments remain the same.

$900 – includes certificate from Stellenbosch University, feedback from BiomatrixWeb, prescribed starting dates.

$600 – no feedback, no certificate, no prescribed starting dates.


On successful completion, the participants may receive a certificate in Function Design from Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

admission requirements

No formal qualifications are required. Ideally the participants have a tertiary education as well as management experience.

in-house delivery

Our courses can also be delivered in-house. Please contact us to discuss your needs.

course developer and facilitator

Dr. Elisabeth Dostal is the developer and facilitator of this and other online courses for sustainable system design based on Biomatrix theory and methodology (which she co-developed).

Her areas of expertise are futurism, systems thinking, strategic management consulting and change facilitation in organization design and development, as well as strategy and policy design.


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