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The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization Paperback – June 20, 1994
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If you believe, as I do, that people are the only long-term competitive advantage and lifelong learning is the way to fully develop that advantage, you must read this book. It's about the real work, the work of implementation! -- Richard F. Teerlink, President and CEO, Harley-Davidson, Inc. Senge's message of growth and prosperity holds strong appeal for today's business leaders. Fortune Peter Senge's concepts take work. They take time. They take personal commitment. But, I believe, they hold the potential for sustained success. -- Robert E. Allen, Chairman of the Board, AT&T Peter Senge's advocacy of the learning organization helped begin a revolution in the workplace. And, the relevance of Senge's work is growing rather than diminishing over time. As more businesses go global, the need to overcome psychological barriers to necessary organizational change increases. Management Today A landmark book. Christian Century This should be a valuable guide and reference to those leading, or simply taking part in, organizational transformation. There's a lot to learn and use in the Fieldbook. -- Philip Carroll, President and CEO, Shell Oil Company --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Publisher
Senge's best-selling The Fifth Discipline led Business Week to dub him the "new guru" of the corporate world; here he offers executives a step-by-step guide to building "learning organizations" of their own.
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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.
The learning organization - Senge's vision for the productive, competitive, and efficient institutions of the future - is in a continuous state of change. Four fundamental questions continuously serve to check and guide a group's learning and improvement (see page 49): (1) Do you continuously test your experiences? ("Are you willing to examine and challenge your sacred cows - not just during crises, but in good times?") (2) Are you producing knowledge? ("Knowledge, in this case, means the capacity for effective action.") (3) Is knowledge shared? ("Is it accessible to all of the organization's members?") (4) Is the learning relevant? ("Is this learning aimed at the organization's core purpose?") If these questions represent the organization's compass, the five disciplines are its map.
Each of the five disciplines is explained, and elaborated in its own lengthy section of the book. In the section on "Systems Thinking" (a set of practices and perspectives, which views all aspects of life as inter-related and playing a role in some larger system), the authors build on the idea of feedback loops (reinforcing and balancing) and introduce five systems archetypes. They are: "fixes that backfire", "limits to growth", "shifting the burden", "tragedy of the commons", and "accidental adversaries". In the section on "Personal Mastery", the authors argue that learning starts with each person. For organizations to learn and improve, people within the organization (perhaps starting with its core leadership) must learn to reflect on and become aware of their own core beliefs and visions. In "Mental Models", the authors argue that learning organizations need to explore the assumptions and attitudes, which guide their institutional directions, practices, and strategies. Articles on scenario planning, the ladder of inference, the left-hand column, and balancing inquiry and advocacy offer practical strategies to investigate our personal mental models as well as those of others in the organization. In "Shared Vision", the authors make the case for the stakeholders of an organization to continually adapt their vision ("an image of a desired future"), values ("how we get to travel to where we want to go"), purpose ("what the organization is here to do"), and goals ("milestones we expect to reach before too long"). The section offers many strategies and perspectives on how to move an organization toward continuous reflection. In "Team Learning", the authors rely mostly on the work of William Isaacs and others, and make a case for educating organization members in the processes and skills of dialogue and skillful discussion.
This book is enlightening and informative. It has already found a place on my shelf for essential reference books.