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The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of…

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization (1990)

by Peter Senge

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Peter Senge's much admired book on building learning organizations and communities of learning is essential reading for trainers and anyone else interested in how successful learning is fostered. He introduces his key themes--systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, building a shared vision, and team learning--in the first several pages of the book, then takes us on an engaging exploration of those themes as he shows us how successful learning organizations develop through what he terms the "core learning capabilities for teams": aspiration, reflective conversation, and understanding complexity. Chapter 14--"Strategies"--is particularly helpful through sections on integrating learning and working, connecting with the core of the business, building learning communities, and developing learning infrastructures. ( )
  paulsignorelli | Nov 26, 2010 |
It has been a real treat to find so much wisdom in one book. Peter Senge clearly and logically explains how the systemic forces of organizational dynamics work, and then casts a compelling vision of how we can use this knowledge to resolve problems and create opportunities. He proposes that organizations can learn better survival skills, just as people can. The title comes from the last item in Senge's list of the five disciplines of a learning organization:
1. Personal Mastery (developing full human potential)
2. Mental Models (identifying and testing hidden assumptions)
3. Shared Vision (engaging everyone for a worthy goal)
4. Team Learning (practicing dialog to build trust and synergy)
5. Systems Thinking (discerning how influences in a system are interrelated and recognizing common dynamics, or "systems archetypes")

It turns out that living organizational systems need an ongoing, deliberate input of applied idealism to produce optimal results. What I mean by "idealism" is a set of high humanitarian standards, such as
- nurturing human development
- creating and sharing a worthy vision
- pursuing egalitarian dialog, honesty, and inquiry
- fostering a trust culture
- cultivating the kinds of relationships that create team synergy.

The convergence of interests between a fully engaged workforce and a true "learning organization" has great potential to bring prosperity to all concerned. It may be too much of a generalization, but I suspect that one of the underlying causes of our economic recession is a simple lack of engagement and alignment between the people and the institutions they work for. Perhaps the best way for American business to remain competitive in a global market over the long run is to leverage the full power and potential of the American workforce.

Whether or not the five disciplines might solve our country's economic woes, I am persuaded they can create the kind of work environments that seriously upgrade their employees' quality of life. I dearly hope these pragmatic ideals will soon transform the corporate world so that skilled practitioners of the five disciplines become the norm rather than the exception. With "over one million copies in print," and numerous other thinkers and authors promoting similar views, it seems that the movement is gathering momentum.

A tragic side note - one of the companies Senge profiled as a good example of a learning organization has recently become a byword for business practices gone wrong on a grand scale. Whatever BP was doing right when he wrote the book 20 years ago didn't work well enough to prevent disaster. However, I don't think this case necessarily undermines the validity of the model - it may simply underscore the need to apply the principles more thoroughly. ( )
1 vote RobinJacksonPearson | Jul 9, 2010 |
To me, a still very relevant theory and method of instructional design and corporate organization. ( )
  jamclash | Jun 12, 2010 |
I'm in education and we tend to have a professional disdain for anything coming out of the business world. I understand that disdain and largely sympathize with it from an ideological perspective, but on a practical level, we are missing out on some really tremendous works. Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline is certainly one of these books.

Sure the book is verbose and tends to make its points ad nauseam, but there's some great discussions about leadership here. In sum, Senge encourages us to take a systems approach to organizations -- we need to look at organizations in their full context rather than through our narrow perspectives. This will allow us to see the best paths we need to take in order to success. The best way to achieve this is to create learning communities where we work, i.e., places where ideas are taken seriously and exchanged and debated on a regular basis.

The book is full of learned references to philosophy (Western and Eastern) and literature. For me, this went a long way toward dispelling the stereotype of the one-dimensional businessperson, obsessed only with profit. Nothing in the book seemed all that revolutionary to me but when I thought about that, I realized that's because so much of this book has been used in so many different conversations I've had about leadership, that Senge's ideas have become intellectual common knowledge. ( )
  dmcolon | Aug 27, 2008 |
This is the best business book ever written. A very wise book, there is far more going on here than just organizational behavior. This is a life philosophy. The court learning dilemma ""we can't learn it when we see no consequences of our actions"" area did highly significant info set. Also, the Truevision versus the vision statement, the danger of best practices, visions fail without systems thinking, the concept of compensating feedback -- why what I refer to as 'the Heiser uncertainty principle' occurs, ""too much information"" as a fundamental problem, why can't work be one of the wonderful things of life, conflict manipulation describes the use of any ""negative vision"" as a motivator, entire industries can develop misfits between models and reality, why visions die, the boundary between work and life is artificial. ( )
  jaygheiser | Jul 28, 2008 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Sengeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Galgano, AlbertoContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385517254, Paperback)

Completely Updated and Revised

This revised edition of Peter Senge’s bestselling classic, The Fifth Discipline, is based on fifteen years of experience in putting the book’s ideas into practice. As Senge makes clear, in the long run the only sustainable competitive advantage is your organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition. The leadership stories in the book demonstrate the many ways that the core ideas in The Fifth Discipline, many of which seemed radical when first published in 1990, have become deeply integrated into people’s ways of seeing the world and their managerial practices.

In The Fifth Discipline, Senge describes how companies can rid themselves of the learning “disabilities” that threaten their productivity and success by adopting the strategies of learning organizations—ones in which new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, collective aspiration is set free, and people are continually learning how to create results they truly desire.

The updated and revised Currency edition of this business classic contains over one hundred pages of new material based on interviews with dozens of practitioners at companies like BP, Unilever, Intel, Ford, HP, Saudi Aramco, and organizations like Roca, Oxfam, and The World Bank. It features a new Foreword about the success Peter Senge has achieved with learning organizations since the book’s inception, as well as new chapters on Impetus (getting started), Strategies, Leaders’ New Work, Systems Citizens, and Frontiers for the Future.

Mastering the disciplines Senge outlines in the book will:

• Reignite the spark of genuine learning driven by people focused on what truly matters to them
• Bridge teamwork into macro-creativity
• Free you of confining assumptions and mindsets
• Teach you to see the forest and the trees
• End the struggle between work and personal time

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:48 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A pioneer in learning organizations offers five disciplines that reveal the link between far-flung causes and immediate effects and that can save organizations from becoming "learning disabled," helping them learn better and faster, in a revised edition of the best-selling business classic.… (more)

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