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The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization Paperback – Deckle Edge, March 21, 2006
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Peter Senge, founder of the Center for Organizational Learning at MIT's Sloan School of Management, experienced an epiphany while meditating one morning back in the fall of 1987. That was the day he first saw the possibilities of a "learning organization" that used "systems thinking" as the primary tenet of a revolutionary management philosophy. He advanced the concept into this primer, originally released in 1990, written for those interested in integrating his philosophy into their corporate culture.
The Fifth Discipline has turned many readers into true believers; it remains the ideal introduction to Senge's carefully integrated corporate framework, which is structured around "personal mastery," "mental models," "shared vision," and "team learning." Using ideas that originate in fields from science to spirituality, Senge explains why the learning organization matters, provides an unvarnished summary of his management principals, offers some basic tools for practicing it, and shows what it's like to operate under this system. The book's concepts remain stimulating and relevant as ever. --Howard Rothman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
A director at MIT's Sloan School, Senge here proposes the "systems thinking" method to help a corporation to become a "learning organization," one that integrates at all personnel levels indifferently related company functions (sales, product design, etc.) to "expand the ability to produce." He describes requisite disciplines, of which systems-thinking is the fifth. Others include "personal mastery" of one's capacities and "team learning" through group discussion of individual objectives and problems. Employees and managers are also encouraged to examine together their often negative perceptions or "mental models" of company people and procedures. The text is esoteric and flavored with terms like "recontextualized rationality," but the book should help inventory-addled retailers whom the author cites as unaware of their customers' desire for quality. Macmillan Book Clubs selection.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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.
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.