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The Fifth Discipline

Peter M. Senge
Doubleday, 1990
ISBN 0-385-26094-6 Hardcover

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The Fifth Discipline introduces and discusses "Learning Organizations" by identifying the fundamental principles in building a healthy, growing organization; including both individual and organizational growth. The author identifies five disciplines that are evident in Learning Organizations. The author states that some excellent companies already practice the first four. The Fifth Discipline, Systems Thinking, is identified as the key to releasing the power within companies. The author provides, and refers to, graphical models, or "archetypes", of typical human systems.

Table of Contents:

Part 1: How Our Actions Create Our Reality...And How We Can Change It
Part 2: The Fifth Discipline: The Cornerstone Of The Learning Organization
Part 3: The Core Disciplines: Building The Learning Organization
Part 4: Prototypes
Part 5: Coda

The first four disciplines:
Personal Mastery: Personal Vision, Holding Creative Tension, and Commitment to the Truth
Mental Models: Understanding our deeply held internal images of how the world works
Shared Vision: Encouraging Personal Visions and then Creating the Shared Vision; getting enrollment
Team Learning: "Dialogue" and discussion

...and the Fifth Discipline:
Systems Thinking: Realizing that there are rarely single cause and effect relationships in life. Many causes may attribute to the occurrence of a single event.

The book, The Fifth Discipline, is a bit heavy reading; but Senge's message is powerful. To be effective, one must demonstrate the integrity of doing the right things. These five disciplines are excellent principles to follow both in business and in private lives.

Effective project management very often requires that an organization change its way of doing business, getting to the very essence of how the management team approaches business and people. Peter Senge provides a thorough treatment of the nature of change -- ideas that the Project Manager can bring to the organization:

  • Our business and personal environments are complex systems -- as much as we might try to identify single causes, there usually is no one single reason why things happen. For example, a company may have a tendency to blame recent low sales on poor performance by the sales force. Other contributing factors may also include some or all of the following: a sluggish market, changing markets of the end customers, enactment of new laws, sluggish foreign money markets, etc.

  • Organizational changes, as well as other changes, take time. The impact of a change may not be seen for months or years -- and you probably won't be able to explain a change by going back to one single action.

Contributed by Russ Zinzer, Integrated Project Systems

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