The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization Paperback – Deckle Edge, Mar 21 2006
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"Forget your old, tired ideas about leadership. The most successful corporation of the 1990s will be something called a learning organization." -- Fortune Magazine.
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"Forget your old, tired ideas about leadership. The most successful corporation of the 1990s will be something called a learning organization." -- Fortune Magazine.See all Product Description
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But learning may be about to become less rare in our organizations. The 21st century brings a networked world of business -- and in this era only living, learning organizations will be able to adapt and survive. All companies will be linked in a global ecosystem. No company will know when and where the next competitor will emerge. To sustain themselves, all organizations will need to constantly innovate and learn.
Senge's book is worth having and keeping on your bookshelf because it gets to the essence of what's needed to create a learning organization. Senge describes five disciplines that must be mastered at all levels of the organization:
1. Personal mastery -- clarifying personal vision, focusing energy, and seeing reality
2. Shared vision -- transforming individual vision into shared vision
3. Mental models -- unearthing internal pictures and understanding how they shape actions
4. Team learning -- suspending judgments and creating dialogue
5. Systems thinking -- fusing the four learning disciplines; from seeing the parts to seeing wholes
As Senge explains, the fifth discipline is particularly important because it ties the others together and helps explain the complex behavior and outcomes that happen in organizations. It illuminates the feedback loops -- the growth cycles, control cycles, and delays that drive our organizational systems. Senge's book gives us a language for understanding these systems and explaining their dramatic successes and failures.-- the virtuous cycles and death spirals that are weekly reported in the news -- and shows us a way of thinking that can help us copy patterns of victory and avoid patterns of defeat.
Learning organizations are rare because the five disciplines are hard. It's self-evident that personal mastery, shared vision, self awareness, and team learning are essential components of a great company, but to master these disciplines in a large organization requires a level of communication, relationship-building, conflict resolution, and the attendant time and commitment, than most people have the capability or willingness to invest. Even in a small team this is hard: the changes we need are at odds with conventional wisdom and conventional management. Currently, it is only the exceptional leader who is able to defy conventional wisdoms and have the personal vision to build a learning organization.
This may be about to change. Business and society are experiencing a dramatic shift. Global business and global development are transforming everything. Organizations will have to adapt or they will not survive. Only vital, living organizations will manage to sustain themselves -- and the vitality they need will not be created by accident, it will have to come from mastery of the five disciplines of the learning organization.
Senge's work is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand how to design, build, and sustain -- or even work in -- a learning organization. It may not be the only answer, and the ideas are certainly hard to put into practice, but the experiments are encouraging. There is a better way of working, and the ideas in this book will help us find it.
Here's my take on a couple of the disciplines:
Systems Thinking: Believing in myths about business leads us to make the same mistakes again and again. We cannot escape these bad cycles unless we see the whole system of how problems occur and then change the structure that create the problems.
Shared Vision: Forget work-life balance. Think work-life integration. Know why the work you are doing is important to you. Transform your work and workplace to create a learning organization where everyone strives to accomplish a shared vision. That vision sounds idealistic, but it is more realistic than trying to lead two separate lives-work and home.
Unfortunately, the author is very long-winded and over-explains concepts repeatedly - taking what should have been less than 50 pages of information and turning it into a 400 page behemoth that is difficult to slog through.
Several people to whom I have recommended this book have suggested that one order the fieldbook instead, as it contains all of the original work's raw information and models in a 17 page executive summary at the beginning. Most people seem to find that more usable than this book.
According to Peter Senge, "real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning we re-create ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we reperceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life. There is within each of us a deep hunger for this type of learning"--powerful advice indeed from a real learning guru.
This revised and updated edition includes the thoughts and ideas of some successful practitioners, taking into account developments since the first edition was published about 15 years earlier. Do not be intimidated by the length of the book, over 450 pages, as it is very informative, insightful and interesting to read.
I recommend this book for individuals interested in understanding the nature of how organizations develop, how behaviours are formed, and how organizations achieve growth and augment their capabilities. You will learn how to improve the way your organization or department functions, how to review and improve systems and how to develop shared visions, create long term goals among other critical insights.
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