The Business Book

(Joyce) #1



hen a company is
devoted to the
development and
education of its employees it will
be able to reinvent itself constantly,
adapting to the market due to the
intellectual skills and commitment of
its employees. If the key to success
in a rapidly changing marketplace
is adaptability and foresight, then
it makes sense to train and foster
talented individuals as a means of
marshaling an entire organization.
This is the essence of what
management authority Peter Senge
called “the learning organization,”
a place “where people continually
expand their capacity to create the
results they truly desire, where new
and expansive patterns of thinking
are nurtured, where collective
aspiration is set free, and where
people are continually learning
how to learn together.” To reach
this ideal a company should adopt a
collective, community-minded
approach so that employees feel
part of a worthwhile enterprise
that will nurture them, and in
return those employees will show
commitment to the business.
Senge proposed his vision for
a corporate utopia in The Fifth

Discipline (1990). In this book he
set out the five disciplines to which
an organization should aspire in
order to succeed in the long term:
personal mastery; mental models;
shared vision; team learning; and
systems thinking—the fifth
discipline, which incorporates
the preceding four.

The five disciplines
The first two disciplines are
individual. By personal mastery,
Senge means that individuals
should use their own interest
and curiosity to improve their
capabilities. Mental models refers
to ingrained ways of thinking,
which should be challenged so
that individuals become aware
of why they think in a particular
way, and of the effect this has on
behavior. Senge encouraged
employees to analyze their own
subtle mental filters and to be
prepared to question and change
them in order to adapt to the future.
The remaining three disciplines
are collective. The goal of shared
vision involves the members of an
organization deciding together
what they want to create and
agreeing on targets and processes



The personal approach

1920s Charles Allen develops
a training program for
shipbuilders in the US, which
involves personal teaching
intended to develop loyalty.

1950s Job training becomes
individualized, replacing the
teacher with programed
materials that employees work
through at their own pace.

1984 Professor Richard
Freeman proposes that
workers are “stakeholders”
and are vital to the survival
of the organization.

1990 Peter Senge publishes
The Fifth Discipline,
advocating “the learning

To compete in
a constantly
a company needs...

...a smart and
work force.

The work force
needs to
challenge itself
and the

...a responsive
and insightful

The business
must learn from
its employees and
constantly adapt.

To excel, tap
into people’s
capacity to
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