Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization
The following will be a review of a book known as The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge. It is a book that describes how a company can become successful by adapting learning organization practices. In the long run the book explains that one has to learn faster than the competition in order to be the most successful.
Chapter one sees Senge introducing the reader to the ideas of learning organizations and how they are needed for one to become successful in this day and age. As the world becomes more complex and interconnected, according to Senge, businesses and organization must become more "learningful" which is something I believe in. If a business wants to top as the best they have to learn the trade or quirks pretty fast (Senge, 2006). According to Senge it seems that the primary reason for building learning organizations is that now we are starting to truly understand the capabilities that these organizations come to have (Senge, 2006).
Senge points out five "technological components" that make a learning organization. They are systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, team learning, and building shared vision (Senge, 2010). Therefore the five disciplines are now addressed. Discipline to Senge refers to a body or theory of technologies that need to be mastered and studied in order to be put into practice (Senge, 2010). Senge mentions that each of these disciplines requires more to do with how one thinks and how one interacts and learns from one another (Senge, 2006).
Senge believes that systems thinking is the most important discipline of the five mentioned. He states that it is the one that fuses all of the disciplines into one coherent and harmonic body of practice (Senge, 2006). I think he is correct. Think about it. Can a piece of artwork truly have meaning and purpose if there is no thought process that goes into it? Systems thinking is what makes individuals perceive themselves in new ways and connected to the world. A learning organization is the place to apply those new perceptions (Senge, 2006).
Senge examines the word known as metanoia. It means shift of mind and that is what happens when one learns especially in an organization (Senge, 2010). Real learning is the heart of being human according to Senge. We can do things we never thought we could do.
Senge concludes this chapter by saying that The Fifth Discipline is a book mainly for learners. It is for the collective learners and managers that can learn the tools to building learning organizations. It can be for parents who want to help let their children to be our teachers as well as us being theirs (Senge, 2010). If communities, societies, and organizations are going to become more adapt learners than certain tools are going to be needed. I believe that without those tools than how can learning come about successfully? There would be no foundation and without one not that much can happen.
Senge examines the idea of the corporate mortality rate being due to poor learning or learning disabilities (Senge, 2010). The disabilities are always there despite the efforts of certain people within the organization. Sometimes the harder that one tries to clear the problem the worse it tends to get according to Senge (Senge, 2010). Senge mentions that in order to start getting rid of the "learning disabilities" that a certain organization may have it is important to know all seven of the disabilities (Senge, 2010).
The seven learning disabilities of an organization, as listed by Senge, are I am my position, the enemy is out there, the illusion of taking charge, the fixation of events, and the parable of the boiled frog (Senge, 2010). The last two are the delusion of learning from experience, and the myth of the management team (Senge, 2010). If an organization has any one of these disabilities something needs to be done. How can an organization...
They need to deal with these issues head on and they need to make sure learning comes from the mistakes that were made so nothing happens again.
The chapter is concluded with Senge mentioning that the learning disabilities mentioned above have been around for quite a while. He mentions that Barbara Tuchman states in The March of Folly that devastating large-scale policies that were for self-interest has been seen since the fall of Troy to the tie of Vietnam (Senge, 2010). It is a history of leaders not learning the consequences of their policies. Other examples used by Senge include Britain in the mid-1700s with the American Revolution the collapse of the Mayan civilization. All are due to poor policies of leaders. These same problems, again, are now seen today in the 21st century. Senge concludes by saying, "The five disciplines of the learning organization, I believe, act as antidotes to these learning disabilities (Senge, 2010) He mentions that the disabilities need to be examined more clearly in order to learn how to deal with them. I think that, as Senge says, one must look into what the problem is and examine it. That way one can learn how to deal with it and eliminate it entirely.
Senge examines what is known as the beer game in this chapter. It aims to help an organization isolate their disabilities and the causes of the disabilities by interacting in a laboratory replica of a real setting. It was first seen in the 1960s at MIT's Sloan School of Management (Senge, 2006). More often than not it reveals that they come out of basic problems in thinking and interacting more than abnormalities of organization policy and structure. The organization replicated is one that is prevalent but not really noticed (Senge, 2006). The players in the game are to manage their positions as best as they can in order to get the most out of profits. It is played out as a story with the characters being the wholesaler, the retailer, and the marketing director and the story is told through the eyes of each of these players (Senge, 2006).
At the end of the game/story certain key lessons are learned. These lessons are structure influences behavior, leverage often comes from new ways of thinking, and structure in human systems is subtle (Senge, 2006). Despite five continents playing the game which would consist of a variety of different cultures and business ideals the same problems ensue or are brought to life as a result of the game (Senge, 2006). Problems such as growing demand never being met and depleted inventories are two such problems. If all of these different players bring about the same issue than the cause must be in the structure of the system itself (Senge, 2006).
If one wants to improve their performance in the beer game and in the actual organizational world they have to redefine their scope of influence (Senge, 2006). One way to start doing this, according to Senge, is to follow the "no strategy" plan or in other words consider out players outcome if nothing was changed to correct their problem. If that does not work than redefining that scope is the way to go. Two guidelines are recommended by Senge if the case comes to be. They are "take two aspirin and wait" and "don't panic" (Senge, 2006).
Senge concludes that the learning disabilities seen in Chapter 2 are all in the beer game (Senge, 2006). The insight one gets from that is seeing how all of these learning disabilities are connected to alternative ways of thinking in situations/events that are complex (Senge, 2006). Event explanations are keys to that thinking process and the three levels of explanation are system structure, patterns of behavior, and reactive events. Senge comments that structural explanation is the most powerful one since it answers the question of what causes the pattern of behavior (Senge, 2006). It addresses the underlying cause of the behavior in a way that can help change the behavior effectively. I believe the beer game should be implemented in all organizations today even the ones that are not failing. It is beneficial to have a system that can give one the picture of where their company can head if certain things happened. For a business that is successful and noticed a picture is given on what behaviors should be avoided in order to avoid failure. For a business or organization in a dire situation it gives them the guidance towards those structural issues that need fixing.
In this chapter Senge lists down all the laws of the Fifth Discipline. The laws are…
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