Customer Reviews

200
4.3 out of 5 stars
The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization
Format: PaperbackChange
Price:$16.47 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

141 of 144 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2006
Since I read this book 15 years ago, the idea of the learning organization has embedded itself in my brain and not let go. I've been on a search to find or create the learning organization ever since. I've never been sure that it really exists in practice, so it's good to see that the revised edition adds the reflections of some successful practitioners, demonstrating that learning organizations have emerged, even if they are almost as rare as they were before the first edition of Senge's book was published.

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.

Graham Lawes
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
I read many business books-this is the best I've read in years, maybe ever. Now I know why so many other business books, methods and cultures leave me feeling empty. The insight in Fifth Discipline aligns with my mental models and suggests a path for achieving great things, rather than for getting promoted or making a buck.

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.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
115 of 136 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2008
The Fifth Discipline contains some great concepts which are very usable in the day to day management of an organization.

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.
1010 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
The Fifth Discipline is a seminal book by the famous author Peter M. Senge. The book teaches the concept of the learning organization namely that the successful organization must continually adapt and learn in order to respond to changes in the environment effectively and therefore to grow and prosper. I have read the book a number of times and keep on referring to it as is filled with a lot useful knowledge and wisdom. System thinking and learning is critical to organisational growth and development in the present highly dynamic operating environment.

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.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2013
This is one of those books that first inspires great optimism and then slowly the reader slides into the slump of despair. From a purely intellectual point of view, the explanation of team learning makes it obvious how this would benefit any company. However, the practical reality is that most organizational behavior is "coin-operated." For the past two decades, we front-line and middle managers have been rewarded mostly for "doing more with less" and meeting demanding deadlines by working many more than 40 hours per week. This increases productivity, to be sure, but there's rarely enough time or incentive to undertake team learning. In my opinion, only companies that uphold intelligence as a core value will have a hope of implementing the strategies in the book and reaping the rewards.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2010
Good book, nice reading, however, the topic of the learning organization and this book is Senge's fruitless effort to get back in the wagon and try to reinvent himself with an updated version of the original book. If you have read or own the original book, do yourself a favor and do not waste your money with this updated version.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2014
The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization written by Peter Senge in 1990 has some great viewpoints for upper and middle managers to learn from. The book may seem to apply its learning philosophy for large size companies but is valid for a company of any size. Senge’s views of the learning organization are broken down into five disciplines; they are: personal mastery, mental models, team learning, building shared vision, and systems thinking.

In chapter 2, Senge explains the seven deficiencies of a learning organization which he calls the “seven learning disabilities”. I don’t know why but the “parable of the boiling frog” stands out in my mind the most; that of letting threats gradually sneak up on or your system. Or being complacency or too comfortable where you can’t react in time because it’s too late. Senge does a good job of giving the reader a visual with his illustrations and examples. On page 89 he mentions of how the temperature controls adjustments can overshoot the target and exceed the desired limits. A simple time delay between adjustments can help stabilize the process from overshooting the opposite limits. I’ve seen this on systems that monitor the relative humidity when storms blow in and change the dew point. Also, when my spouse comes home from work and adjusts the thermostat as low as it can go thinking the A/C unit will cool down faster. By the time I get home the house is freezing…. Senge’s point is that sometimes delays to a process are sometimes necessary while other delays, like in the “beer game” orders, may be a burden and create an issue.

The beer game was in chapter 3 is a great example of how material flows from the brewery, through the distributor, and then to the retailer for sale to the consumers. The process is a little redundant and maybe a little long winded but is important for the readers or managers to understand how easily things can go wrong. My initial thought was the book was written in 1990 and now that we have the internet with B2B software, it could resolve the communication breakdown between the three parties and have material flow closer to JIT process. This would help the reaction time as sales increase or decrease. Senge references the beer game throughout his book and mentions the game was first developed in the 1960’s as a demonstration at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

The “7 Disabilities” of an organization relate to the “11 Laws of an Organization” in chapter 4. The seven disabilities can be conquered by the disciplines of the eleven laws of an organization.

What I thought reading through the beer game was somewhat difficult but was nothing compared to the agonizing chapters of 6 and 7. Chapter 8 was refreshing that deals with “Personal Mastery”. I guess the part I enjoyed was the “Personal Vision” where I can evaluate my own visions and not just my goals. It clarifies the vision and what it takes to achieve being a “personal mastery”. It mentions to fill in the gap between my vision and reality; the “gap” is the energy of making my vision a reality.

One thing Senge mentions is that “organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs”. Leadership, vision, and disciplines all play a part in creating a learning organization.

These are just some of my notes that I made for myself and almost gave the book only three stars for the long drawn out sections. Other than that it is a good book and one to highlight and tag notes inside and keep on your shelf. That is just my take on it - hope my notes help.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2011
A recommend read for everyone who is will to open their mind to learn how to be better, or simply trying to improve their work experiences and their life. The author of this book, Senge points out scenarios which one would commonly encounter but never give much thought to, and their importance. He also showed the flaws that come from the common choices one will make in these situations, and explains how they are flawed. Like every good book, it's easy to understand and easy to learn from.

The first half of the book was the most exciting part for me. The author talked about the well known scenarios like the Cold War and explained the influences that lead up to the Arms Race. Senge also talked about a very interesting experiment called the Beer Game. Much like a psychology or behavior study experiment, the beer game explained how a very simple change in the system can have a dramatic effect on the whole, simply due to overreacting. These examples showed how much a simple misunderstand of the system at works will produce drastic differences, either on a global scale or a local scale.

As for the five disciplines, they are well explained in the book, from simple concept to deep understanding. For the example of System thinking, Senge actually explain it from the action of filling a cup with water, how to see this simple action as a system of events, rather than a simple picture. For personal mastery, he talked about it with the stretching of a rubber band. One hand represents the vision of a desired future, and one hand represents the present reality, how each is pulling the other closer due to the tension in the rubber band. A person will strive towards his/her vision, which pulls his/her present reality higher, or doesn't strive towards his/her vision, which will pull his/her vision lower to a more achievable standard. It was examples like these that make the book very easy to understand and a relaxing yet very informative read.

The only negative thing for me is that the second half of the book could get a bit dull. As he begin to explain in depth with many, many examples of each discipline. Many examples I can relate to, but some just feel like I'm reading someone else's story.

Overall I would recommend this book. I would even say the idea Senge is trying to get across is essential for modern society. See your vision of a future you truly wanted, and work towards it with a group that shares your vision, while making the right decision based on system thinking, and with enough practice, you will arrive at that vision. That's what Senge is trying to make us see with this book, and that is why I would recommend it, not just to people in management or Corporations, but to everyone. Senge is called the Strategist of the Century for a reason, and this book shows it.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Aside from content, I want to emphasize the greatness of this book due to Senge as reader. His voice sounds friendly and he has an engaging style.

Senge's approach to creating the five disciplines stems from the business theory of systems thinking. This theoretical approach is concerned with how each individual in an organization interacts with others in the organization (the greater system). The system has subsystems and to be a learning organization must incorporate the disciplines to modify the relationships as needed for the greater good of the whole.

The Fifth Discipline is filled with examples that illustrate that goodness of systems thinking approaches. Its antithesis is the silo organization, a common example in local and national governments. In the silo organization, individuals see their own best interests in building their fiefdoms in order to keep their positions. The learning organization always strives to connect individual's best interests with those of the organization as a whole, necessitating a far greater degree of cooperation and much more nuanced management.

The halcyon days when Senge's book appeared are really just a memory now. But many of his ideas have been incorporated into other author's works and these ideas live on.

I wonder if the linking of the each employee's interests to the interests of the organization as a whole is in many cases de-linked by forces of globalization. Since Senge wrote this book, health care costs have increased dramatically. It would be great to have a new edition to this book published.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The Fifth Discipline is a reasonably good book but very over-hyped. It starts off with a very interesting example of systems thinking (the well-known 'Beer Game'), but then peters out fast in terms of interesting and helpful examples. The book does provide a reasonable list of factors that will facilitate learning, though it is very light on practical example and application. Some material (such as avoiding groupthink and improving team communication and organizational citizenship behavior) has been extensively discussed elsewhere, and there are much better sources for this (including Janis's original Groupthink work and the subsequent research on that topic, and William Starbuck's books on learning and decision errors). The Fifth Discipline did little to add to the existing material on those topics. Perhaps the The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook (coauthored by Art Kleiner - editor of the excellent magazine "Strategy+Business") is more practical and helpful to organizations. This is a reasonably good book but was very light in practical examples and recommendations. I was very disappointed in this book after reading it.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed

Thinking in Systems: A Primer
Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella H. Meadows (Paperback - December 3, 2008)
$11.57

The Fifth Discipline
The Fifth Discipline by Peter M. Senge (Hardcover - August 1, 1990)
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.