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THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE
Peter Senge, 1990
Bottomline: If you don't have time to read the book, then read this outline. If you don't have time to read this outline, then read the notes included at the end of this packet. If you don't have time to read the notes at the end of this packet you are too busy!
Note: no notes or packet are included in the Air War College copy of this review.
I hope this helps get us on the same sheet of music concerning a learning organization.
Note: Figures shown in parenthesis ( ) indicate page numbers in the book.
1. THE BOTTOM LINE
This book addresses organizational learning. Many of the author's basic concepts are familiar to military readers through our exposure to leadership and training doctrine, but related in a different way for a different audience. For the professional soldier who thinks he\she has mastered the military leadership and learning process, the book offers a means of viewing his\her established theory from a different perspective.
Senge reminds us to seek solutions that treat the cause of problems, rather than those which react to their effects. The first achieves fundamental change; the second merely addresses the short term symptoms. In an era where joint and combined operations appear to be an important defense force corporate skill, the author shows some leadership and thinking techniques which may improve the way we approach our organizational learning techniques. The book is beneficial reading but at the end of the day, it provides a set of old truths applied to a modern management setting. My recommendation--don't buy the book--get it from the library when you have some spare time. And if your time is critical . . . read these notes instead.
2. WHAT DOES THE BOOK SEEK TO DO?
The book is for learning, especially the art and practice of collective learning. It will help managers identify practices, skills and disciplines that can make building learning organizations less of an occult art.
3. HOW DOES THE AUTHOR MARKET HIS BOOK?
Senge says that the key to better performance lies in identifying pitfalls and opportunities before they occur, which is best done through generative, rather than adaptive learning. Adaptive learning focuses on events and is therefore re-active. Generative learning is forward looking, examining the causes of events and the relationship between causes.
4. HOW DO WE KNOW IF OUR UNIT HAS A LEARNING DISABILITY?
a. (19) Does my staff constantly blame others for their problems? Do they say--I do my job right so it must be someone else's fault.
b. Do we talk about pro-activeness and taking charge, yet actually still only react to events? Do we display a lot of "can do" attitude but only react to events, rather than predicting them? True pro-activeness comes from seeing how we contribute to our own problems and is a product of our way of thinking, not our emotional state (21).
c. Do we continue to focus only on events and then seek fixes for them? Today the primary threats to our survival, both of our organizations and of our societies, come not from sudden events but from slow, gradual processe; e.g., environmental decay, the shift in CGSC student interest towards 5 pm, the decline in US/Brit relations preceding American independence. (22) As an example, Senge uses the parable of the boiled frog: increase the water temperature quickly around a frog in a pot of water and he will jump out; do it slowly and he will not react until it is too late and he can't jump out. How to make your unit see the slowly rising warning signs is the key.
d. (23) We learn best from experience but we never directly experience the consequences of many of our most important decisions. There is often a lag in time or space which prevents us from seeing the long term effect of our important decisions. This therefore limits our experience which is an important part of the way in which we learn. We seek to cope with complex problems by breaking them up into controllable sub-group; e.g., stovepipe organizations in the defense forces. What may happen is that we create separate organizations that increasingly see only their part of the pie and not the whole.
e. (24) Just because we create a management team to solve a problem does not mean the problem will be solved in the most efficient way. The group needs to create open dialogue where their group product is superior to those produced by each individual. The group must be able to confront complex issues--there is no point having groups of "skilled incompetence," where teams look busy but do not get to the heart of what is causing the problem. (The team learning classes we had at the start of the CGSC year were a means of educating students to understand how teams can be made productive; by showing what behavior limits group productivity. "Form, Storm, Norm, Perform.")
f. How do we go about understanding a complex problem? To see long term trends try to understand patterns of behavior rather than events (52). The process is as follows:
systemic structure (generative)
patterns of behavior (responsive)
(53) The model is based on the premise that structure produces behavior, and changing the underlying structures can produce different patterns of behavior. The aim is to get people to realize that their problems and hopes for improvement are linked to how they think.
5. THE DISCIPLINES OF THE LEARNING ORGANIZATION
a. Building shared vision:
(1) (9) The capacity to hold a shared picture of the future we seek to create.
(2) Where there is genuine vision (as opposed to a vision statement), people excel and learn, not because they are told to but because they want to. What has been lacking is a discipline for translating individual vision into shared vision--not a cookbook but a set of principles and guiding practices.
b. Personal mastery:
(1) It involves deepening our personal vision, of focusing energies, of developing patience and of seeing reality objectively.
(2) It is clarifying the things that really matter to us, of living our lives in the service of our highest aspirations. (At the start of this course CGSC focused students on personal visions for the year.)
c. Mental models:
(1) I prefer the term hidden opinions or bias.) (8) They are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures or images that influence how we see the world and how we take action.
(2) We are often unaware of how our mental models affect our behavior; e.g., subjectively categorizing a person by the way they dress.
d. Team learning:
(1) (This is similar to our attitudes in the defense forces to the importance of team training.)
(2) (10) To learn we need to create open dialogue (not just discussion)--suspend our assumptions and enter into genuine mutual thinking.
(3) Teams, not individuals, are the fundamental learning unit in modern organizations; unless teams can learn, the organization won't be able to learn.
e. Systems thinking:
(1) How to see systems as a whole.
(2) (12) This is the fifth discipline because it integrates the other disciplines, fusing them into a coherent body of theory and practice. It reminds us what the whole can expect from the sum of its parts.
(3) (69) It is the conceptual cornerstone that underlies all of the five learning disciplines; it offers a language that begins by restructuring how we think.
(4) (126) It is the art of being able to recognize complex and subtle structures (including when under pressure); of being able to see the patterns that cause/create a structure when others are preoccupied with reacting to events.
(5) (128) Systems thinking is best when it helps us find high leverage changes in highly complex situations (i.e., like our goal at CGSC--the least effort for the most gain). The art lies in seeing through complexity to the underlying structures generating change. We should organize the complexity into a coherent story that shows the causes of problems and how they can be remedied in enduring ways (e.g., do our history papers earlier than the night before they are due).
(6) "The increasing complexity of today's world leads many managers to assume they lack the information they need to act effectively. I would suggest that the information problem faced by them is one of too much rather than too little. We need to know ways to distinguish what is most important, what variables to focus on and which to pay less attention to--and we need ways to do this which can help groups or teams develop shared understanding."
6. THE LAWS OF SYSTEMS THINKING
a. (57) Today's problems come from yesterday's solutions. Don't do the fix that transfers the problem to another area or another time. (We may get back that bad soldier we are seeking to transfer out.)
b. The harder we push, the harder the system pushes back. (59) Sometimes we recognize a problem and use traditional ways to overcome it. When this fails we often keep applying more pressure rather than trying to understand why the solution isn't working.
c. Behavior grows better before it grows worse. We often seek the easiest fix to look better in the short run. A solution feels good and at first cures the symptoms of the problem--but does it really cure the problem in the longer term (e.g., stop a domino falling on us from the left, then we go to sleep; we don't look round and see a circle of dominoes which hits us in the night while we are asleep).
d. The easiest way out usually leads back in. We all find comfort applying familiar solutions to problems, but the obvious approach won't always achieve the best fundamental solution.
e. The cure can be worse than the disease. Train the unit to shoulder its own burden; if a higher HQ constantly solves problems as soon as they become hard at unit level, the unit becomes dependent on them.
f. Faster is slower. In nature, optimal growth is usually slower than the fastest possible rate of growth; this does not mean that we should be inactive in business - but at least be prepared to try something in a new and perhaps less hateful way.
g. Cause and effect are not closely related in time or space.
(1) Effect: symptoms that indicate a problem (e.g., starving children, falling orders).
(2) Cause: the interaction of the underlying system that is most responsible for generating the symptoms.
h. (63) Small changes can produce big results. But the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious (e.g., the trim tab on the rudder of a ship helps turn it, but you would not think it would help so much unless you understand the theory of all the forces at work). The key is to understand the structure rather than the event, and the processes of change rather than a snapshot in time.
i. You can have your cake and eat it too--but not at once. You can have high quality and high profit but it takes time to swing around customer perceptions; think in terms of the long term result of a decision on the system.
j. Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants. Living systems have integrity, their character depends on the whole. In a large organization, subunits must have their perceptions coordinated (e.g., three blind men will each draw a different opinion about what an elephant looks like if they grab a different part; each will think he is right, yet none will see the real truth). The key is called the principle of the system boundary; look at what the key issues are, regardless of the organizational boundaries (e.g., Do we need a fleet air arm with the Marines as well as the Navy? Do we need one large logistic corps or a series of specialist logistic corps? We have to confirm the overall need of the organization rather than what each service or corps thinks its needs are).
k. There is no blame. We are they, the cure lies with our relationship with ourselves and others, not blaming someone else for the cause of all our problems.
l. Change the way we approach problems.
(1) (71) Using the obvious solution does not always produce the obvious, desired outcome. For example, the arms race--building more weapons did not decrease the threat, it actually increased it since the USSR was also reacting to the US decisions; the arms de-escalation is an equal example of rapid de-armament by each side wanting to break new ground. Why? Because the obvious solution may only work with detail complexity, rather than dynamic complexity. The latter describes situations where cause and effect are subtle, and where the effects over time of interventions are not obvious. Creating a large lever to solve a problem with little effort sometimes lies in understanding this dynamic complexity.
(2) (73) The essence of systems thinking needs a shift of mind.
(a) Seeing interrelationships rather than the simple straight line cause-effect chains, and seeing processes of change rather than snapshots.
(b) Try to learn to recognize types of structures that recur again and again. Ultimately it simplifies life by helping us see the deeper patterns lying behind the events and the details. This is what Senge does in his book and is summarized in the back--he shows some typical structures.
(c) See the circles that influence an activity: reality is made up of circles but we see straight lines; e.g., filling a glass of water is a cyclic process. Note that we are part of the process (not separate from it) since we provide feedback to the cycle. Using diagrams to explain these circles is a useful group discussion management tool.
(3) (79) There are two types of feedback processes:
(a) Reinforcing. Where actions have a snowball effect on each other, e.g., word of mouth that a movie is good (or bad), equals more (or less) people who watch it (82). The feedback and action you desire as the movie maker is to increase the word of mouth.
(b) Balancing. Where we make decisions or give feedback which are designed to meet a goal, e.g. to stay at 60 mile/hr, we adjust the accelerator to what we think the road conditions will be and the capacity of the car based on our experience. Resistance to change is part of a hidden balancing process, based on threats to traditional norms and ways of doing things. Rather than pushing harder to overcome resistance to change, artful leaders discern the source of the resistance (88).
(4) (89) One of the highest leverage points for improving system performance is to minimize delay. Don't increase the inventory - decrease the delay, e.g., this is the basis for "just in time" inventories and supply systems.
(5) (91) Use controlled pressure to solve a balancing system that has a delay built into it. For example, adjusting the hot water on an old shower system--the more aggressive you become in adjusting the taps, the longer it takes to reach the right temperature and the more you produce instability and oscillation.
m. Identifying the patterns that control events.
(1) (84) If we learn to see the structures we work with, we will begin to free ourselves from previously unseen forces and will ultimately master the ability to work with and change them. For example, a man drowned fighting the undertow near a weir. After he had died, it took only 10 seconds for his body to be sucked under the water and pushed clear of the undertow--if he had understood the process earlier he would not have died.
(2) (95) Limits to growth - don't push growth; remove the factors limiting it. (119) Remember that an effect can be separated by its cause in time and space, e.g., it is too late to wait for a slump in demand and then worry about delivery times. You need to find the limiting factor early, define the process and take action before the slump occurs.
(3) (101) How to achieve leverage in each process: leverage usually lies in the balancing loop. To change the behavior of the system, you must identify and change the limiting factor. How: Identify the reinforcing process (what is getting better and what actions lead to improvement); then identify the limiting factor and the balancing process it creates. Senge summarizes these loops in the back of his book.
(4) (104) Beware the symptomatic solution. A solution that addresses the symptoms of a problem rather than its fundamental causes is likely to only have short term benefits. (123) It is vital to hold to critical performance standards and to do whatever is required to keep those standards (e.g., discipline in war? ).
7. HOW TO BUILD THE LEARNING ORGANIZATION
a. (139) Units learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning but without it no organizational learning occurs.
b. (140) Managers must give up the old dogma of planning, organizing and controlling. Their key task is to provide the enabling conditions for people to lead the most enriching lives they can.
c. Personal mastery (the basis of personal motivation).
(1) (141) People with high levels of personal mastery are continually expanding their ability to create the results in life which they truly see.
(a) From their quest for continual learning comes the spirit of the learning organization. It means continually clarifying what is important to us and learning how to see reality more clearly. People with high personal mastery see a vision as a calling rather than simply a good idea and see current reality as an ally. They are continually learning. (148) The ability to focus on ultimate intrinsic desires, not only on secondary goals, is a cornerstone of personal mastery. (277) Be careful of only having participative management that thinks that the solution to all problems comes by sharing everyone's views. The aim is to get people to speak out, but also to look inward. If they don't do the latter they won't break down their assumptions and mental models and are less likely to be as honest.
(b) (149) Personnel mastery must be a discipline; a process of continually focusing and refocusing on what one truly wants, and on one's visions. (155) If the first choice in pursuing personal mastery is to be true to your own vision, the second fundamental choice in support of personal mastery is commitment to the truth. Both are equally vital to generating creative tension.
(2) (160) Discovering the structures at play is the stock and trade of people with high levels of personal mastery. People with high personal mastery are often able to accomplish very complex tasks with grace and ease--they train their subconscious. (164) They meditate, to quiet the conscious mind and allow the subconscious to work more effectively. (169) Einstein once said "I never discovered anything with my rational mind." He would then apply his consciousness to put these insights into testable propositions. Eventually, integrating reason and intuition may prove to be one of the primary contributions of systems thinking.
(3) (172) Fostering personnel mastery in an organization. A description: managers can build an organization where it is safe for people to create visions, inquiry and commitment to the truth are the norm, and where challenging the status quo is expected--especially when the status quo includes obscuring aspects of current reality that people seek to avoid. The core leadership strategy is simple: be a model. Commit yourself to your own personal mastery.
(4) Creative tension. (How to energize an organization.)
(a) (150) People often have problems talking of their concerns because of the gap between theory and reality. But the gap is the source of creative energy. It is called creative tension. The only way to ease this is to either pull reality toward the vision or the opposite. Which one occurs depends on how we stick to the vision. The trick is to keep making fundamental changes which will narrow the gap. Resist solving the symptom which may only give short term relief.
(b) (155) People don't resist change, they resist being changed.
(c) (158) Willpower is not good enough to solve problems--it only leaves the underlying system of structural conflict unaltered. Many highly successful people still feel a deep, usually unspoken sense of powerlessness in critical areas of their lives--such as personal or family relationships.
(d) (159) Tell the truth and seek out the ways we limit or deceive ourselves from seeing what is, and to continually challenge our theories of why things are the way they are. Look at the ways our actions may affect an outcome, e.g., when people appear to let us down, ask what did I do which may have contributed to this? Why wasn't the person motivated enough?
d. Mental models (how to influence our decision making process).
(1) (174) Mental models are deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting. How we make sense of the world and how we take action.
(2) (175) Mental models are powerful because they affect what we see (and therefore what we do). The problems with them arise when we don't know we are using one--therefore we forget that our view may be distorting reality.
(3) (178) Obtaining consensus whilst allowing subunits to retain a high degree of autonomy is helped by creating shared mental models. In a new learning organization, the new dogma for managers will be vision, values and mental models, rather than managing, organizing and controlling.
(4) Confront the truth in encounters with others; say more of what you are thinking to reach proper dialogue (test for this by writing down what you really think compared to what you actually say--Senge calls this the left hand column exercise). Perhaps if you are more open you may find out more about the problem.
(5) Don't jump to general conclusions which are not based on fact, say what you think, listen more than you talk, and do what you say.
(6) Don't impose a favored mental model on people. Mental models should lead to self-concluding decisions to work their best. People are more effective when they learn their own models. Many mental models can and should exist at once.
(7) Use mental models at the personal and interpersonal level.
(8) (191) Skills of reflection slow down our thinking processes so we can become more aware of how we form mental models and the ways they influence our actions. Inquiry skills concern how we operate with others face to face, especially in dealing with complex and conflictional issues. We can use the left hand column exercise to write down what we are thinking on one side of some paper and what is actually said on the right. This is a simple tool to show us how mental models can affect true dialogue and how we often skirt around issues rather than facing them.
e. Vision and purpose (how to set the framework for a good command climate in an organization).
(1) (149) Vision is a specific destination, a picture of the desired future. Purpose is abstract. For example, vision is breaking the four minute mile; purpose is running the best I can. (153) It's not what the vision is, it's what the vision does. Truly creative people use the gap between vision and current reality to generate energy for change.
(2) A mistake is an event, the full benefit of which has not yet been turned to your advantage.
(3) (155) An accurate, insightful view of current reality is as important as a clear vision.
(4) (223) Vision is the what--the picture of the future we seek to create. Purpose (or mission) is the "why" (why we exist). Core values answer the question of how do we want to act, consistent with our mission, along the path toward achieving our vision. Things like integrity, openness, honesty, freedom, equal opportunity, leanness, merit or loyalty are examples of core values.
(5) Shared visions.
(a) (275) People have an innate sense of purpose and, when people reflect on what they truly want, most discover that aspects of their vision concern their families, their communities, their organizations and for some, the world. Shared visions draw on this broader commitment and concern. When managed with sensitivity and persistence, shared visions create a sense of trust that comes naturally with self disclosure and honestly sharing our highest aspirations.
(b) (206) A shared vision is not an idea, rather it is a force which can create motivation and action once people see and feel it. The key is to create a shared vision that many people are committed to, because it reflects their own personal vision. Don't create negative visions like defeating an adversary--what do you do once you beat him? Aim for perfection rather than being the best. It is not what the vision is, it's what the vision does.
(c) (209) A shared vision provides a rudder to keep the learning process on course when stresses develop. We are more likely to be open and put aside smaller issues. In the presence of greatness, pettiness disappears. In the absence of a great dream, pettiness prevails.
(d) (210) Strategic planning must truly look to tomorrow's opportunities rather than today's problems. You need a goal which is worthy of commitment. You must get people to make their personal visions match the shared vision. This should not be forced and will take time. First get people to have their own personal visions. The origin of a vision is much less important than the process by which it becomes shared. A group of people committed to a common vision is an awesome force. They can accomplish the seemingly impossible. Committed people truly want the shared vision to occur because it matches their personal vision.
(e) (222) To get people on side: be enrolled yourself; be honest about it; and let the other person choose.
(f) (225) Fear and aspiration can motivate organizations. Fear can produce extraordinary changes in short periods, but aspiration endures as a continuing source of learning and growth.
(g) (226) You must build truth and honesty into your unit. A test is how quickly bad news travels upwards.
(h) (229) In trying to establish a vision, don't allow people to get overwhelmed by the demands of current reality and lose their focus on the vision. Also keep people with a feeling that they are part of a greater process, connected to other people that are going to achieve the vision.
(i) (231) Don't be event driven, understand how systems work and match this with a vision to generate change rather than to react to change.
f. Team learning (how to improve the learning potential of an organization).
(1) (236) Team learning has three elements: to think insightfully about complex issues as a team; the need for innovative, coordinated action; and interact teams with other teams. (240) We want to reach the dialogue stage rather than just discussion. In dialogue, people become observers of their own thinking. There are three conditions required for dialogue: people must suspend their assumptions; they must regard each other as colleagues; and there must be a facilitator who holds the context of the dialogue. Contrary to popular belief, great teams are not characterized by an absence of conflict.
(2) (250) Most of us are afraid to openly discuss our reasoning processes, since we are afraid others will find errors in it. Break down these barriers where possible. Problems can be increased when people's defensive routines are encouraged by the climate in the unit. For example, such a unit would be one where an incomplete or a faulty understanding of an issue was considered a weakness or as incompetence. This encourages dishonesty and people who say they know all the facts when they don't. Don't expect everyone to have all the answers all the time if you want honesty in the unit. The more effective people's defensive routines become, the more they cover underlying problems. To solve this problem in a unit requires you to create an environment where defensive routines are discussable. You must do this carefully in a very open manner which encourages frank and open views, led by management; e.g., leave your rank and position at the door.
(3) Possible ground rules for groups are: suspend your assumptions and your opinions; act as colleagues; and have a spirit of inquiry.
(4) (267) Reality is composed of multiple, simultaneous, independent cause-effect-cause relationships from which normal verbal language extracts simple, linear, cause-effect chains. This is why so many managers are drawn to low leverage solutions. The "find and fix" mentality results in an endless stream of short term fixes, which appear to make the problems go away, except they keep returning, so then we go and fix them again.
(5) Management must shape and coordinate team views--so each does not grasp part of the "elephant" (like a blind man) and think he has the only solution to what the elephant looks like.
(6) (281) Try and create openness. To do this, make sure you don't talk about always having the right answer. Encourage people to realize there are many ways to skin a cat equally well. Get people to feel that they can contribute even if their views don't fit with the rest of the group. When people realize that no one has the answers they often open up a lot more in search of a solution.
(7) Dialogue occurs when two or more people are willing to suspend their certainty.
(8) (285) Building relationships characterized by openness can be one of the high leverage actions in building an organization.
(9) (289) Traditional organizations have management which tries to control people's behavior; learning organizations try to improve the quality of thought, the capacity for reflection and team learning, and the ability to develop shared visions and shared understandings of complex issues.
(10) (291) Be careful about delegating when things are going well and centralizing when things are tough. This displays an inconsistent approach to the trust you place in subordinates.
(11) (298) You should normally have management responsible for managing the common resources that subunits draw on and which they could be seen as being in competition with other units for. If this is not managed fairly, subunits may adopt selfish but successful strategies which give them a larger slice of these resources--regardless of whether it is best for the organization as a whole.
(12) (299) A new role for management: Research and Development--understanding the organization as a system and the internal and external forces driving change. Managers design the learning processes by which the unit understands these trends and forces.
(13) (300) Encourage forgiveness (which includes forgive and forget); e.g., someone fails; you call him in and ask him if he is the one who screwed up--you then congratulate him on at least having a go and being prepared to try something new or take responsibility. Remember that to most people, making the mistake is punishment enough.
(14) (307) There is a natural connection between a person's work life and all other aspects of his life- don't try to divorce them. Balance his nonwork aspects and help them add to his capacity whilst at work. Let work get him closer to his personal vision. Reduce the effort he has to make to balance work with family and leave him more time for both activities. Make it possible for people to interject family as well as work issues. You can't build a learning organization based on broken homes and strained relationships.
(15) The technology of learning--microworlds (Simulations). (How to use technology as part of organizational learning.)
(a) (315) We learn best by practice, and particularly by play. Simulations and exercises that achieve both are very good for learning. Lying behind all strategies are assumptions, which often remain untested and implicit. Frequently these have internal contradictions. A simulation is one way of finding some of these internal contradictions which may flaw the strategy. (320) They also help people with different views try out their opinions and learn.
(b) (324) In learning, don't act as if your group is the most important, always blame others or only advocate your view without truly listening to others.
(c) (335) Some values of simulations: integration into the real world whilst in the abstract one; speeding up and slowing down time; compressing space (e.g., effects on remote units); isolating variables; experimenting; pausing for reflection on what occurred and why (AARs); a basis for discussing new theories; holding some of the lessons learned by previous units and experience (by developing the simulation play to build on these). The aim is institutional rather than individual memory.
(16) Managing quality.
(a) (333) Be careful what you measure. Measuring what is most easy to measure can lead to looking good without being good; e.g., measuring the number of customers versus customer satisfaction. In a service business it is not possible to assess capacity separately from quality.
(b) Once you train your staff they will come to realize that the key to improvement is coordination.
g. Leadership and systems thinking--bringing all the skills together.
(1) (340) Leaders are designers, stewards and teachers, responsible for building organizations where people expand their capacity to understand complexity, clarify vision, and improve shared mental models - they are responsible for learning. E.g. imagine that your organization is an ocean liner and that you are the leader. What is your role? The best answer is the "designer of the ship" - he is the one who dictates the parameters which everyone else on the ship has to use. Good designers make good people better because they provide better systems for these people to use, or better environments to work in. The good leader is he who the people praise. The great leader is he who the people say we did it ourselves.
(2) The design process cannot be theoretical--it has to make something work in practice. Leaders must design the learning processes whereby people can deal with crisis and develop mastery in the learning disciplines.
(3) (347) It is not enough just to provide for food, shelter and belonging (although these are the first three items on Maslow's hierarchy of human needs)--we must address the higher needs: self respect and self actualization. You must believe that there is an enormous reservoir of untapped potential in your people if you want to build a value based, vision driven environment.
(4) (348) You must encourage people to take and accept risk if learning is to occur. Learning cannot happen without experiments, which in turn requires risk.
(5) (349) The rate at which organizations learn may become the only sustainable source of competitive advantage, especially in knowledge intensive businesses. (This supports Michael Howard's theory that the Army that will win the next war is the one that can adapt the fastest--the one who can learn and change to the new conditions the quickest.)
(6) (350) The fundamental challenge is tapping the intellectual capacity of people at all levels, both as individuals and as groups. To create valid learning you must constantly go back to reality.
(7) (353) Leaders can influence people to view reality at four distinct levels: events, patterns of behavior, systemic structures and a purpose story. The trick is to find the right balance. Avoid being too event driven since this causes reactiveness and does not solve the fundamental causes of problems.
(8) (357) Generate creative tension--hold a vision and concurrently tell the truth about current reality relative to that vision. A leader's story, sense of purpose, values and vision establish the direction and target. Leaders generate and manage creative tension--they energize their organization through this--that is why they exist.
(9) (359) Leaders are distinguished by the clarity and persuasiveness of their ideas, the depth of their commitment and their openness to continually learn more. They do not have the answer, but instill others with the confidence that together the group will learn enough to get them through. The five disciplines of learning should be equally regarded as disciplines of leadership.
The Five Disciplines
1. Building Shared Vision--the practice of unearthing shared "pictures of the future" that foster genuine commitment.
2. Personal Mastery--the skill of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision.
3 Mental Models--the ability to unearth our internal pictures of the world, to scrutinize them, and to make them open to the influence of others.
4. Team Learning--the capacity to "think together" which is gained by mastering the practice of dialogue and discussion.
5 Systems Thinking--the discipline that integrates the others, fusing them into a coherent body of theory and practice.
The Seven Learning Disabilities
"The enemy is out there." A by-product of the "I am my position" mentality. When we think of who we are as the position we play or the job we do, then if things go wrong we imagine that somebody out there "screwed up." With a very narrow sense of self-identification, it becomes natural to think of people outside and around us as enemies.
The illusion of taking charge. All too often "pro-activeness" means "I'm going to get more active fighting those enemies out there." If we believe the enemy is "out there" and we are "in here," pro-activeness is really reactiveness with the gauge turned up 500%. True pro-activeness comes from seeing how our own actions contribute to our problems.
Flotations on events. We are conditioned to see life as a series of events, and for every event, we think there is one obvious cause. The irony is that the primary threats to our survival--both in organizations and globally--come not from events but slow, gradual processes.
The Parable of the Boiled Frog. We are very good at reacting to sudden threats to our survival, but we are very poor at recognizing gradual threats. This is analogous to a frog that will sit in a pot of water and let itself be slowly boiled to death because it doesn't perceive any immediate danger.
The delusion of learning from experience. We learn best from experience--from trial-and-error experiments--but we never experience the results of our most important decision. The most critical decisions made in organizations have systemwide consequences that stretch out over years or decades.
The myth of the management team. Most teams operate below the level of the lowest IQ in the group. The result is "skilled incompetence"--teams of people who are proficient at keeping themselves from learning.
Personal Growth and Learning
1. Personal mastery is the discipline of continually expanding your ability to create the results in life you truly seek; it is a quest for continual learning.
2. Personal mastery embodies two underlying movements:
a. continually clarifying what is important to us, and
b. continually learning how to see current reality more clearly.
3. People with a high level of personal mastery have a special sense of purpose that lies behind their vision and goals. Vision is a calling rather than simply a good idea. It can be expressed as "genuine caring." When people genuinely care, they are naturally committed. They are full of energy and enthusiasm.
4. Vision is different from purpose. Vision is a specific destination, a picture of a desired future.
(where we want to be)
(telling the truth about where we are)
5. Creative Tension comes from seeing clearly where we want to be and telling the truth about where we are.
6. Vision without an understanding of current reality will more likely foster cynicism than creativity. An accurate picture of current reality is just as important as a compelling picture of a desired future.
7. Leading through creative tension is different from solving problems.
Problem Solving: Energy for changes comes from attempting to (Reactive) get away from undesirable current reality.
Creative Tension: Energy for change comes from the vision--from (Proactive) what we want to create.
What's the difference? Many people and organizations find themselves motivated to change only when their problems are bad enough to cause them to change.
Our Internal Images of How the World Works
1. Mental models are the internal pictures we carry around of how the world works.
2. Mental models are powerful in affecting what we do because they affect what we see. Two people with different mental models can observe the same event and describe it differently, because they have looked at different details.
3. Exposing assumptions about important business issues is the key strategy of improving mental models. Multiple mental models bring multiple perspectives to bear.
Tool: Left-Hand Column Exercise
4. Learning to create metaphors is an essential skill of the leader. Through metaphors, one can communicate highly complex concepts and information far more quickly and accurately.
5. Inquiry and advocacy help bring about new mental models.
Advocating your view:
Inquiring into other's views.
A Common Caring
1. What is vision?
2. People seek to build shared visions in their desire to be connected in an important undertaking.
3. Shared visions emerge from personal visions. This is how they derive energy and how they foster commitment. It is rooted in an individual's own set of values, concerns, and aspirations.
4. Personal mastery is the bedrock for developing shared vision. Commitment to the truth and creative tension can generate levels of energy that go far beyond individual's comfort levels.
5. Leaders intent on building shared visions must be willing to continually share their personal visions. They must also be prepared to ask, "Will you follow me?"
6. The process of building shared vision is not glamorous. Being a visionary leader is not about giving speeches and inspiring troops. Being a visionary leader is about solving problems with my vision in mind.
Possible Attitudes Toward a Vision
Guidelines for Enrollment and Commitment
Guidelines for Enrollment and Commitment
1. Be enrolled yourself. There is no point attempting to encourage another to be enrolled when you are not. That is "selling," not enrolling will, at best, produce a form of superficial agreement and compliance. Worse, it will sow seeds for future resentment.
2. Be on the level. Don't inflate benefits or sweep problems under the rug. Describe the vision as simply and honestly as you can.
3. Let the other person choose. You don't have to "convince" another of the benefits of a vision. In fact, efforts you might make to persuade a person to "become enrolled," will be seen as manipulative and actually preclude enrollment. The more willing you are for a person to make a free choice, the freer s/he will feel. This can be especially difficult with subordinates, who are often conditioned to feel as though they must go along. But you can still help by creating the time and safety for them to develop their own sense of vision.
1. Team learning is the process of aligning and developing the capacity of a team to create the results as members truly desire.
2. Within organizations, team learning has three critical dimensions.
3. Dialogue and discussion are two distinct ways that teams converse. (See pages on dialogue and discussion.)
4. Dialogue sessions allow a team to come together to "practice" dialogue and develop the skills it demands. The basic conditions include:
(1) having all members of the "team" (those who need one another to act) together.
(2) explaining the ground rules of dialogue.
(3) enforcing the ground rules so that if anyone finds himself/herself unable to "suspend" his/her assumptions, the team acknowledges that it is now "discussion" not "dialoguing."
(4) making possible, indeed encouraging, team members to raise the most difficult, subtle, and conflictual issues essential to the team's work.
The Integrating Skill That Fuses the Others Together
Systems Thinking shows that there is no outside--that you and the cause of your problems are part of a single system.
Key Skills for Future Leaders:
Key Skills for Future Leaders:
Reviewed by LTC MIKE KIRBY
Last updated: November 06, 1998