- Paperback: 445 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday; Revised & Updated edition (March 21, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385517254
- ISBN-13: 978-0385517256
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (475 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.