System Dynamics in Business & Organisations

Author – Sarah Cornally

Why consider systems dynamics?

Systems operate according to fundamental principles. If these principles are observed systems will be healthy and energy will flow through the system in constructive ways, which enhances the life of the system. It becomes strengthened to realise its purpose, a healthy vital system. If any of these principles are compromised so is the system. It will then respond in a way that reveals itself, by the presence of disturbances in the system. This is a result of responding to

the negative effects. This produces symptoms. It may be stuck or blocked, turbulent, inefficient, high maintenance, lethargic or resistant, revealing an unhealthy weakened or burdened system.

What is going on in business and organisations that may be symptoms of disturbed system dynamics?

Confused/weak leadership, unresolvable conflicts, not achieving results, high staff turnover, bullying/intimidation, destructive actions, loss of commitment, lack of accountability, lack of/disruptive teamwork, failure of good initiatives, initiatives being blocked, resistance to change, lack of clarity, confusion, repetitive undesirable patterns, compounding problems.

How do you examine system dynamics?

Being able to identify all the relevant elements and then create a representation of the system enables you to examine the relationship between each of the elements. It is enhanced if you can discover the impact each of the elements has on each other and what is the effect on all of the elements of the system in relation to the issue you are inquiring into. By exploring the dynamics, using the principles of healthy system dynamics, and their impacts across the system allows you to develop new ways of understanding possibilities for creating healthy constructive dynamics and possible solutions. This process also reveals hidden or invisible dynamics that can only become tangible through this type of representation.

There are several ways to represent the system. These representations are known as systemic constellations.

Business or organisational systemic constellations examine the system dynamics of a business or organisational issue. A systemic constellation accesses the intelligence that lies within the system itself.

How are they used to benefit the organisation, team or business?

Systemic constellation may be used in group or individual settings to gain clarity, perspective, examine or reveal alternative options, create alignment, provide insight, resolve confusion, discover steps to move forward, create healing and many others.

The process reveals the underlying dynamics so solutions can be found to align the system in a healthy way and the energy can flow through enabling people to fulfil the purpose of the organisation.

Where a group is involved there is a collective result. It can create highly leveraged mutual understanding in a relatively short time frame with a deep collective “knowing”. For the individual, there is often conviction that comes with the clarity that arises. Sometimes it is the power of the final image they take with them that works over time.

It is important the issue is suitable for applying systems dynamics and that the right conditions are present to represent the system in the most appropriate way. The proposer must be the person responsible in terms of decision making rights for the issue.

What is the process?

In a workshop setting the people participating have an interest in exploring system dynamics in businesses and organisations.

After some introductory remarks and setting the scene there is an invitation for people who have an existing issue they would like to find a solution for. There may be several requests. The facilitator will check in with each person to identify which issue would be a good place to begin. For some situations people will want to keep the identities involved confidential. This is welcome and can be accommodated.

The steps:

  1. The facilitator Interviews the proposer to clarify the issue and what a good outcome from this process would be.
  2. The facilitator determines what type of systemic approach would suit the issue.
  3. The facilitator and the proposer together identify the elements involved, determine which ones will need representation.
  4. The facilitator guides the group on representation and how to do it.
  5. The proposer sets up their inner image of the issue as it currently is, using floor markers and/or representatives.
  6. The facilitator reveals the current dynamics, what is going on within the system and its effects
  7. The facilitator explores interventions to bring the system in alignment with systemic principles moving towards a solution.
  8. The facilitator brings the constellation to an ending in consultation with the proposer.
  9. The proposer de-roles the representatives with the facilitators guidance.
  10. The facilitator guides a sense making conversation with the proposer to conclude.

What can be expected as an outcome?

A new insight, clarity or distinction which was completely unexpected.

A new mental image to be working from which gives new options and choices.

A shift in awareness, creating a different relationship with the issue and the solution. A confirmation of an instinct, which creates a conviction.

Facing unpleasant truths which now enable you to address them from a position of strength.

How do I know this is credible?

Systemic organisational constellations have been used in Europe for over 20 years in publicly listed companies, government departments and small and medium companies.

Bert Hellinger developed family systems constellations and then applied the relevant principles to organisational issues. Organisational systemic constellations were developed as a specialist stream by Gunthard Weber emerging from the work of Bert Hellinger. Jan Jacob Stam & Matthias Varga von Kibed & Insa Sparrer have further developed this work including advancement in systemic approaches and structural constellations, respectively.

Most organisational development practices have their origins in social and behavioural sciences. Systems dynamics principles come from proven successful applications. It draws on quantum physics, family systems theory, gestalt and indigenous wisdom of the Zulu’s. It includes Virgina Satir, Jacob Moreno, Murray Bowen & Ivan Böszörményi-Nagy’s work and more recently the New Heidelberg School. 

There are various research projects and PhD’s in this field.

Client Perspectives

I strongly recommend Sarah as a constellating business consultant. I have followed her work during 2010, both as a client and seeing her working with other clients. Her way of working is at the same time both very firm and very humble. I think the firmness comes from her natural authority, which in turn is a result of constantly having the customers best in mind but also letting the knowing field have its way. She is very good at detecting the systemic dynamics that are involved.  She thinks one step ahead, is very creative and good at putting words on the processes that are at work. She has a lot of experience from the business field, which gives her a wonderful platform to work from. It was easy to trust her when she worked with my question and the work she did has been very useful for me.
Johan Storgårds, owner of Storgårds Consulting, Finland

To powerfully lead an organisation, I believe the leader must deeply understand the core essence of the organisation and the vital relationships that exist within it.  The leaders role is to facilitate and leverage these relationships to accelerate the organisation towards its purpose.  Yet the typical process of a leader getting to this place is often full of distractions and noise that is confusing and counterproductive, wasting valuable time and energy.

The constellation process is an extraordinary experience that gives such clarity, confidence and sense of purpose to a leader.  Like any process, its power and effectiveness is critically linked to the facilitator.  Sarah Cornally is masterful in enabling these invaluable outcomes to be achieved with grace, ease and remarkable professionalism.
Margot Halbert, 2012 President of National Speakers, Founding partner of Women Who Lead

Working with Sarah Cornally on a systemic constellation was a true gift for our branding business, mcme. I had no idea what to expect of the constellation, however I felt I could trust Sarah’s wisdom, words and centred authority.

Having others involved in the process gave me the opportunity to have a clear aerial view of the areas of the business which needed greater focus. Hearing the feedback from others in the constellation inevitably raised more questions around the business direction and my own leadership. Smoothly guided by Sarah, I could see these were better questions to be asking both of the business and myself, leading to increased clarity, stronger commercial direction, and greater solutions for our clients.
Michael Neaylon, Director, McMe, Branding Agency

I came to Sarah at a point where I was struggling with how to progress with a work issue. Sarah suggested taking me through a process which might provide some clarity. I did not really know what I was in for, but I was open to trying it, and I am very glad that I did. The process itself is hard to describe. It was intense, and at times confronting, and while it did not “solve” my problem, it helped me distil it down to its essence. The clarity I gained enabled me to focus on exactly what I needed to address, and was a significant factor in helping me move forward to a satisfactory conclusion. Thank-you Sarah!
Director, Top Tier Accounting Firm

David and I would like to thank you for your extraordinary kindness in providing the systemic constellation which has enabled us to gain some perspective on what was seeming to be an impossible problem. We have been able to make some headway in decisions with potential to extricate us albeit gradually from the python grip. We can see what needs to be done as first steps.
Evelyn Howe, Psychologist & Lecturer Sydney University


Sarah Cornally commenced her training in systemic constellations in 2009. In 2010 she travelled to Europe to complete an international training in System Dynamics in Organisations at the Bert Hellinger Instituut led by Jan Jacob Stam and an international faculty of some of the most experienced practitioners in Organisational work. Attending the International Organisational Constellations Intensive, she experienced work with Gunthard Weber, one of the founders of organisational constellations. Advanced programs in Holland as well as the Asia Pacific Systemic Constellations Intensives and specialised advanced workshops, combined with applications with clients continue to enhance her skills and expertise.

Member, The International Forum for Systemic Constellations in Organisations (Infosyon) Member, The International Association for Systemic Constellations (ISCA)

Contact Sarah
Sarah Cornally
Cornally Enterprises PO Box 1414
Mona Vale NSW 1660
Telephone +61 2 9918 3911
Facsimile +61 2 9918 3966