Customer Reviews


121 Reviews
5 star:
 (74)
4 star:
 (33)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:
 (5)
1 star:
 (7)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


98 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars positively excellent
All too often, I find myself acting cynically about my field and ready to dismiss just about anything as mediocre, no matter how popular or praised. Well, this is one book that I think is really excellent - for content, for clarity, for sincerity, for the stories reported in it.
When I plow through a business book, I try to see if I can remember the central ideas,...
Published on March 24, 2004 by Robert J. Crawford

versus
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor common sense translation of systems science
Beneath the shiny coating of words, the bottom line of the author is a poor translation of some of the fundamentals of systems science. The models presented in the book are none other than a banal reinterpretation of behavioural structures that have been studied by systems science for more than 30 years. Admitting this starting point and cutting a lot of the...
Published on September 20, 1998


‹ Previous | 1 213 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

98 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars positively excellent, March 24, 2004
By 
Robert J. Crawford (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
All too often, I find myself acting cynically about my field and ready to dismiss just about anything as mediocre, no matter how popular or praised. Well, this is one book that I think is really excellent - for content, for clarity, for sincerity, for the stories reported in it.
When I plow through a business book, I try to see if I can remember the central ideas, the essence of what the author has to say from the mass of details and stories that make up every business book. Most often, they are appalingly banal and pathetically over-applied, touted as able to solve just about every problem, in particular if a fee is paid to the authors to come and talk about it in person. I was preparted to treat this book the same way, and was simply delighted to find a truly excellent and useful book. And gee, I am glad that I can get inspired by a book in my chosen field, rather than bored!
As I see it, this book has three principal ideas. First, we must think of organizations and their missions as complex systems rather than as conglomerations of isolated problems. It is pitch for the development of a holistic view - how everything interacts and what factors act upon what other factors. This is an analytical tool that can pinpoint what should be done, breaking mental habits of looking only at the bottom line of sales revenues, for example, rather than the need to provide better service or delivery times. Second, employees must be empowered to make their own decisions locally, requiring honesty and openness throughout the organization as standard practice. This enables them to question and learn, not just individually but as part of a unified team, hence the subtitle of a learning organization. Mistakes are part of this process and should be allowed as valid experiments. Third, the task of a leader is to design an organizational system within which this can all be accomplished. Rather than control all decisions in a centralized manner in accordance with a rigid plan, the leader must develop a vision of where they organization should go and then allow his employees to pursue that vision as a team with great autonomy.
I have wanted to read this book for almost ten years. It was first pointed out to me by a remarkable business leader in mainland China, Zhang Ruimin, the founder of the Haier Group, as a seminal text for him. He said that he had built a learning organization in accordance with Senge's prescriptions, and after so many years, I see that indeed he did. What this book did for me was to give me a better idea of Zhang's mind and what went on in it. But it has also given me a clearer idea of many other remarkable entrepreneurs whom I have had the pleasure and honor to meet over the years in my work. As Senge explained, these men had a vision, but used the gap that existed between their vision and current reality to inspire their workers to achieve remarkable things. And they created self-reinforcing systems to do so.
Another fascinating aspect of this book is that, in spite of being nearly 15 years old, it felt fresh and its examples did not feel stale and in need of updates. Many books that old extoll Japan as the model to emulate and explain why that country does everything better than everyone else. Just take a look at Porter's books! While this book has some examples from Japan, it does not fall into that trap - for me, that means its analyses have stood the test of time.
This is one of the best business books I ever read - and I have read way way too many of them! Warmly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Intellectual Look Into Creating A World-Class Business, May 13, 2000
This review is from: The Fifth Discipline (Hardcover)
The Fifth Discipline stresses the importance of cultivating a learning organization. Accordingly, it is a book of learning more than of application. The content is very philosophical compared to other business-oriented books that I've read. The author, Senge, forces the reader to be alert and to be open. With that in mind, this book has a wealth of information to share with its readers. Although I would not recommend this book to the casual reader, it is a must-read for anyone who cares to be intellectually challenged from a business leadership perspective, and who wants to deepen their own knowledge-base in order to become more insightful leaders in their organization.
In chapter two, Senge wastes no time getting to the fact that most business organizations (even the "good" ones) have a real learning deficiency. Often, businesses find some way to get the job done, but have no culture that fosters real growth and accumulation of new, outside knowledge. As a result, many businesses-while growing in the areas of sales, profits, employees, etc.-nonetheless are often doomed to repeat past mistakes, and perhaps set themselves up for a much bigger fall in the future.
Senge's discussion of mental models (chapter 10) and the role they play in every person's interactions with others is of value to the manager who wonders why they are sometimes ineffective when it comes to working with certain other individuals. Our mental models often effect our outward actions towards others in negative or at least non-productive ways, and we are usually not even cognizant of that fact. The "Action Science" theory is also interesting as we try to learn how to more effectively interact with others in the organization. Towards the end of chapter 10, Senge shares some very basic ideas that, if remembered, can help individuals cultivate more fruitful working relationships within the organization.
In chapter eighteen, Senge focuses on what it takes to be a leader in a continually improving, systems-oriented organization. The leader of this type of organization must become a better "designer" of that business's capabilities. This person cannot expect his employees to perform to his expectations if the system that has been designed (within which they perform) is not capable. The leader must continually improve and redesign the overall system/organization so that organizational growth can always be a reality. "'The bad leader is he who the people despise. The good leader is he who the people praise. The great leader is he who the people say, "We did it ourselves."'" In Senge's paraphrase of Lao-tzu, we learn that people have thought about leadership criteria for thousands of years. We also can read that a great leader is one who helps design a system that enables all employees to contribute and grow.
Senge interviewed three executives whose organizations have thrived as learning, systems-oriented businesses, and included their responses in the chapter on leadership (18). Ray Stata, President and CEO of Analog Devices, Inc. notes that "the rate at which organizations learn may become the only sustainable source of competitive advantage" in the future (p349). As worldwide industries mature, and companies become global, we have every reason to believe that certain variables (employee education, technology, etc.) will be increasingly equal. If this assumption holds to be true in the future, then Ray Stata's observation is one that today's business leaders should beware. In the not too distant future, it may be only the learning organizations that survive and prosper.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


87 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiration..., February 7, 2002
By 
The Learning Organization remains one of the most talked-of management concepts in today's business world, and nobody is as capable of explaining exactly what is a Learning Organization or what are the requirements for such an elusive concept than Peter Senge.
Senge's main thesis is that for an organization to become a Learning organization, it must embrace five disciplines:
1) Building Shared Vision so that the organization may build a common commitment to long term results and achievement.
2) Mental models are a technique that can be used to foster creativity as well as readiness and openness to change and the unexpected.
3) Team Learning is needed so that the learning is passed on from the individuals to teams (i.e. the organization as a whole).
4) Personal Mastery is the individual's motivation to learn and become better (hence the term Mastery).
and Finally
5) The fifth discipline is that of Systems Thinking which allows to see a holistic systemic view of the organization as a function of its environment.
However, this is not simply a book about management practice.. though it was written primarily for the use managers. This is a book about growth, improvement and continuous development. If you wish to achieve these results for yourself, your home, or your organization, then you MUST read this book.
Senge introduces his ideas and concepts smoothly and in an absorbing style. He is able to explain difficult concepts simply and by the end, you find that you have whole-heartedly embraced his belief in the Learning Organization, in fact, you find yourself yearning for it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understand the systems around you, and create lasting change, April 8, 2000
By 
Adam F. Jewell (Pittsburgh, PA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Nothing happens in isolation, every event or situation is the result of numerous related events. In order to create lasting change in a work environment, in your personal life, or in your physical health, there are numerous interrelated factors that contribute to the current situation.
Within this book you will discover how your actions create your current reality, and why certain actions may or may not bring about the desired change. The book identifies "systems archetypes" such as the snowball effect, balancing loops, growth and under investment, fixes that fail, limits to growth, shifting the burden and others. These are general models that describe many familiar scenarios and situations.
Along the way, the book details:
Personal mastery - a commitment to personal growth and learning
Mental Models - The beliefs that people hold about the world, change, and reality that may be impeding the change process or limiting growth.
Shared Vision - Overcoming mental models and bringing concerns and beliefs out in to the open, so members of an organization may work toward a common goal.
Team learning - Building on shared vision, by aligning goals, dreams and desires, in a manner such that a group of people function as a whole to achieve a common goal.
There are numerous easy to understand examples of the five disciplines at work in the book, that anyone can relate to and understand. They range from corporate examples such as the ultimate failure of Peoples Express airlines, a simple supply chain management scenario in the "Beer Game" and numerous examples from everyday life.
It's an easy reading book, very thought provoking, and enlightening, definitely worth picking up a copy. The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, and the Dance of Change provide excellent complimentary reading to the 5th Discipline, and are full of exercises relating to the Fifth Discipline. In addition, Eli Goldratt has written several books that compliment this work very well particularly the Goal.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even More Relevant and More Valuable Now, February 17, 2000
This is the first of three Senge books I greatly admire, the others being The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook and The Dance of Change. It is important to keep in mind that "total learning" is a misnomer. We can never learn everything it is possible to learn (are you fluent in Mandarin Chinese?) nor can we ever learn all of the possible applications of what we do know. Senge's objective is to help all organizations (regardless of nature or size) to optimize opportunities for appropriate learning, and, to assist everyone involved to optimize the results of their efforts to learn. What several other reviewers have either ignored or minimized is Senge's substantial contribution to our understanding of effective, sustainable change within any organizational structure. (You are also urged to check out O'Toole's Leading Change, another excellent source of information and counsel.) Senge organizes The Fifth Discipline as follows:
Part I How our Actions Create Our Reality...and How We Can Change It
Part II The Fifth Discipline: The Cornerstone of the Learning Organization
Part III The Core Disciplines: Building the Learning Organization
Part IV Prototypes
Part V Coda
According to Senge, there are five new "component technologies" which are gradually converging to innovate learning organizations: Systems Thinking ("invisible fabrics of interrelated actions"), Personal Mastery (of various skills at the highest possible level), Mental Models ("deeply engrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures or images" which influence learning), Building Shared Vision (of "a set of principles and guiding practices" which help to define "pictures of the future"), and finally Team Learning (based on dialogue which enables effective collaboration). The book examines each of these five separate but interdependent "disciplines" with meticulous care and compelling eloquence.
Organizations as well as those who comprise them can (and often do) have learning disabilities. For example, what I call the Negative Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: "I can't do "it" or "We can't do "it." The prophecy is then fulfilled (of course) as if it had been expressed by the Oracle at Delphi. Senge is well-aware of learning disabilities. Within the framework of his narrative, he suggests a number of practical strategies and tactics to overcome them. In effect, Senge has created a highly-readable, immensely practical, and extraordinarily comprehensive examination of "The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization."
Although first published ten years ago, The Fifth Discipline is more relevant and more valuable today than ever before. Why? Because change is the only constant and it can occur in seconds rather than in years or even days. Because there is now so much more information to absorb, digest, and evaluate. Because organizations are (finally) beginning to recognize their under-utilization of their "human capital" and need immediate assistance. I give The Fifth Discipline the highest possible rating and conclude my review of it by quoting Derek Bok's response when parents of Harvard students complained about a tuition increase: "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."
Those who share my high regard for this book are encouraged to read William Isaacs' Dialogue, also. Senge provides an excellent Introduction to it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book that began a fad, January 26, 2003
This book was written quite a long time ago (in 1990) and shifted the boundaries of management from concentrating on silos (marketing, HR, finance, production) to looking at organizations as open systems which interact with outside systems and put into motion forces that may not be easily understood using traditional systems to assessment. This ability of Systems Thinking Senge called the "Fifth Discipline" , the other four being:
1) Building Shared Vision.
2) Mental models .
3) Team Learning.
4) Personal Mastery
The field of Systems Thinking was developed in MIT under Prof Jay W. Forrester, but Senge gae it the 'managerial' flavour, cross-fertilising it with folk beliefs , spirituality and scientific thought from around the world.
The belief being, once an organization has mastery of all the five disciplines, the organization can become 'a learning organization'. This book, therefore triggered the craze and fad on part of organizations to become 'learning organizations' and the rise of the 'knowledge economy' was perfect timing for it. Now when the hoopla has settled, it is time again to revisit the true essence of Senge's work and what he REALLY means.
Being a consultant who works in the areas of creativity and knowledge creation, Senge's work is like an ocean , which I visit time after time. And come up with an occasional nugget and pearl. It's not an easy book to read, but well worth the effort.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor common sense translation of systems science, September 20, 1998
By A Customer
Beneath the shiny coating of words, the bottom line of the author is a poor translation of some of the fundamentals of systems science. The models presented in the book are none other than a banal reinterpretation of behavioural structures that have been studied by systems science for more than 30 years. Admitting this starting point and cutting a lot of the blah-blah about learning would have helped in making this a better book. If you want to read something on learning and change, read Watzlawicz's "Change".
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good basic concepts - irritating squish and scope creep, March 11, 2003
By 
kent dahlgren (Portland, Oregon United States) - See all my reviews
Although I found many the book's concepts to be intuitively obvious, I am appreciative that it has become a "recommended read" within the context of our company's "Lean Six Sigma" deployment. Hopefully it would be less likely I'd sound like a new age freak when I use some of the language used in the book when recommending a better way of working together.
The bottom line: "systems thinking" has a lot to do with stepping outside of oneself and looking at the entire system almost empathetically. Sounds squishy, but bear with me.
This "systems thinking" enables one to deconstruct the situation to make more educated decisions. It's not easy, but with practice, makes for an effective tool that often preempts contention and misunderstanding. Allow me one recent example:
We had been tasked to re-design the product development process for a recently merged organization. On either side of the widely dispersed team resided processes and associated opinions regarding what was right and wrong. To each many of the opposing team's views appeared counterintuitive, if not "stupid."
"Systems thinking" would have one see that all parties are intelligent contributors who have come to conclusions reflecting often unique situations or constraints, such that their decisions may be in fact quite intelligent. When each opposing team employed this more global "systems" approach, each could recognize and appreciate the wisdom of the other.
As mentioned earlier, many of the ideas sound quite soft. At many points the book itself becomes so irritatingly mushy I fought the urge to put it down or skip entire sections. I didn't read it so I could help fix the crisis in the Middle East. I'm not currently interested in re-evaluating my place or role in this world. At times the "scope creep" is unbearably aggravating.
However, the content itself is worth exposing to yourself (and your team), if only because there may be many who aren't familiar with this approach. I would prefer a condensed version, something that skipped the "scope creep," but it's still a good read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book changed the way I think., October 20, 1999
Systems thinking can help you understand how two rights can make a wrong, how we can unconsciously limit ourselves, and why the value of an organization lies in how we work together. You can use systems thinking to examine and transform your understanding of problems that have hung around for a long time (example: nature versus nurture--what is one without the other?).
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Packed With Knowledge!, May 14, 2001
Little can be written that hasn't already been said about Peter M. Senge's classic on organizational learning. So let's keep this review simple: If you haven't read this book, read it now. When this seminal work was originally published in 1990, it was truly ahead of its time in its identification and description of the learning organization. But more than a decade later this concept has become a central component to organizational development, and if you somehow missed Senge's prescient analysis of the evolution of business, work and employment, you're more than a step behind. Why? Because Senge has the rare ability to break new ground in theory and then apply these abstract advances into concrete practices that businesses can emulate. We [...] almost hesitate to call this book a classic, since the term often brings to mind unread tomes that do little but look impressive on a shelf. The Fifth Discipline is a book that should be read, and perhaps re-read, by anyone who earns a living in the corporate world.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 213 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

The Fifth Discipline
The Fifth Discipline by Peter M. Senge (Hardcover - August 1, 1990)
Used & New from: $0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.