Harvard Business Review described The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge, as one of the seminal management books of the previous 75 years. In 2017 I reviewed mastery and models and showed how they still pertain to organizations 30 years later. I concluded that the challenge for learning professionals is to help organizations become learning organizations. It is also to master the new literacies of the network era and promote critical thinking, for ourselves and others.
Questioning existing hierarchies is necessary to create the organizations of the future where power and authority are shared, based on mutual trust. The dominant organizational models need to become network-centric and learning-centric.
“Personal mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively. As such, it is an essential cornerstone of the learning organization — the learning organization’s spiritual foundation.” ―Peter Senge (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization
I later looked at shared vision and team learning as well as the fifth discipline that connects the other four — systems thinking. I suggested that organizations need to switch from short-term to long-term thinking about learning. Executives have to understand that learning is not something to get.
People need time to master these skills, but they cannot do this in an organization where mistakes are not tolerated. People need to be able to share openly and this may work against existing performance management systems, most of which should be put in the dust bin anyway. Yes we can develop a shared vision for learning if we learn together.
The four disciplines of Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Shared Vision, and Team Learning must be in place before Systems Thinking can unify them. All of these disciplines are about learning — individually, as teams, and as an organization. Senge described Systems Thinking as, “A very deep and persistent commitment to ‘real learning.’” Only by actively engaging with our work and questioning our assumptions can groups of individuals, over time and through practice, become a learning organization.
“We will never transform the prevailing system of management without transforming our prevailing system of education. They are the same system.” ―Peter Senge (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization
From a perspective that work is learning, and learning is the work, then it it becomes clear that both work and learning have to change for real organizational change and the potential to truly create learning organizations.