Peter Senge the author of the Fifth Discipline has authored some of the most well know books in terms or best practice references for learning organizations. In his books there are five core disciplines used to advance learning organizations. They are systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, building a shared vision, and team learning.
“Senge advocates the use of ‘systems maps’ – diagrams that show the key elements
of systems and how they connect. However, people often have a problem ‘seeing’
systems, and it takes work to acquire the basic building blocks of systems theory, and to
apply them to your organization. On the other hand, failure to understand system
dynamics can lead us into ‘cycles of blaming and self-defense’”.
Systems thinking is the cornerstone of the learning organization. Systems thinking is a way of thinking about, and a language for describing and understanding, the forces and interrelationships that the behavior of systems. This discipline helps us see how to change
systems more effectively, and to act more in tune with the larger processes of the natural
and economic world.
Personal mastery is learning to expand our personal capacity to create the results we
most desire and creating an organizational environment which encourages all its
members to develop themselves toward the goals and the purpose they choose.
“Organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not
guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs”
Mental models are reflecting upon, continually clarifying, and improving our internal
pictures of the world, and seeing how they shape our actions and decisions.
Shared vision is the building of a sense of commitment in a group, by developing shared images of the future we seek to create, and the principles and guiding practices by which we hope to get there.
Team learning involves transforming conversational and collective thinking skills, so that groups of people can reliably develop intelligence and ability greater than the sum of individual member’s talents. The Five disciplines are adapted from (Senge)
“He adds to this recognition that people are agents, able to act upon the structures and
systems of which they are a part. All the disciplines are, in this way, ‘concerned with a
shift of mind from seeing parts to seeing wholes, from seeing people as helpless reactors
to seeing them as active participants in shaping their reality, from reacting to the present
to creating the future’
The leaders leading learning organizations must act as designers, stewards, and teachers of the learning organization. Senge says that leaders of the past need new direction and have typically been people who were deeply individualistic with a non-systemic missions.
Where are you headed with your organization?