Five Disciplines of Organizational Learning

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  • Topic: Peter Senge, Organizational learning, The Fifth Discipline
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  • Published : March 10, 2013
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Five Disciplines of Organizational Learning

Introduction
Peter Senge described learning organizations as places where “people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive pattern thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to learn together. Each of these disciplines involves a body of theory and techniques that must be practiced in order for mastery to develop” (Senge 1990). The disciplines are systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, and team learning. System Thinking

System thinking is the discipline of seeing wholes, perceiving the structures that underlie dynamically complex systems, and identifying high-leverage change opportunities. Peter Senge uses a rainstorm as an example of how humans interrelated actions have a diverse affect on each other, and how humans usually don’t see those invisible links because it takes years to take form. Because people don’t usually see them for years and only focus on snapshots, it arises the questions of why there problems never seem to get solved. According to the author Peter Senge, “Systems thinking is a conceptual framework, a body of knowledge and tools that has been developed over the past fifty years, to make the full patterns clearer, and to help us see how to change them effectively” (1990, p.468). The approach of systems thinking is fundamentally different from traditional forms of analysis. Traditional analysis focuses on the other constituents of the systems set of elements that interact to produce behavior of which it is part, which in meaning, instead of isolating smaller and smaller parts of the system being studied, systems thinking works by expanding its view to take into account larger and larger numbers of interactions as an issue is being studied (Daniel Aronson) (Raines, 2009). Personal Mastery

Personal mastery; the special level of proficiency. The discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and seeing reality objectively (Shortell and Kaluzn'ys, 2012). It goes beyond competence and skills, although it involves them. Personal Mastery has two components: first, one must define what goal one is trying to achieve. Second, one must have a true measure of how close one is to the goal (Senge, 1990). Personnel mastery is an essential cornerstone of the learning organization; an organization commitment to capacity for learning can be greater than that of its members. The author explains: People enter business as bright, well-educated, and high-energy people, full of energy and desire to make difference. By the time they are 30, a few are on ‘fast track’ and the rest ‘put in their time’ to do what matters to them on the weekend (Senge, 1990). As Senge said “People with a high level of personal mastery live in a continual learning mode. They never ‘arrive’. Sometimes, language, such as the term ‘personal mastery’ creates a misleading sense of definiteness, of black and white. People with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, their growth areas, and they are deeply self-confident. Mental Models

A mental model is the discipline of constantly surfacing, testing and improving our assumptions about how the world works. Mental models actively shape what we see and, therefore, how we act (Shortell and Kaluzn'ys, 2012). Mental models are individually dependent upon the individual’s mind that of what the person is thinking of others. For example, the way a person dresses; we may think they take pride in their appearance or vice-versa. Arie de Geus, Shell’s recently retired Coordinator of Group Planning says that continuous adaption and growth in a changing business environment depends on institutional learning which is the process whereby management teams change their shared mental models of...
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