Intro/Overview of LO LO5469

Virginia I. Shafer (
Thu, 8 Feb 1996 23:18:09 -0700

Replying to LO5434 --

Donna, You wrote:

>I have been hunting, with no success, for basic information on the
>Learning Organisation, and was wondering if anybody could spare the time
>to document - a kind of Overview, on this subject for me before I launch
>myself into understanding the higher grasp. Any replies/advice welcome.

I was recently asked by someone else:

>Thanks for the lead to Learning Organizations. Since I haven't read the
>"Fifth Discipline" yet (but plan to) I haven't been able to deliniate
>its major differences with Theory Z or Total Quality Management.
>Although I imagine they are all in the same philosophical ball park, are
>there any major differences that sets LO apart from the rest?

They are definitely cousins in my thinking. I find LO the most
comprehensive. It may help to understand what the five disciplines are.
These are not in a particular order, but if you wanted to transition your
organization into an LO, there is a logical progression to introduce the
disciplines, but the new work for leaders involves bringing them together
as an ensemble The "new leader" must become conductor, maestro.

1) Systems Thinking--Seeing the whole. Where Theory Z really involves
"management's" affects on the organization--policies, procedures,
structures, etc.--and TQM uses tools to analyze individual processes (a
system's smaller components), LO focuses on the patterns resulting from
interactions of, say, policy, people, and production. "Systems thinking
is a conceptual framework, a body of knowledge and tools that has been
developed over the past fifty years, to make full patterns clearer, and to
help us see how to change them effectively." A very powerful approach to
analyzing politics!

2) Personal Mastery--"...the discipline of continually clarifying and
deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing
patience, and of seeing reality objectively." In other words, developing
a special level of proficiency as a life-long learner.

3) Mental Models--I like to describe them as personal paradigms as long as
you're not burned out on the word and recognize it as more than meaning
"model." The power of a paradigm is how it behaves as a filter, keeping
us from seeing certain realities (like what I believe to be the CAUSE of
the cultural demise in America). The discipline of mental models
"...starts with turning the mirror inward; learning to unearth our
internal pictures of the world, to bring them to the surface and hold them
rigorously to carry on 'learningful' conversations that
balance inquiry and advocacy, where people expose their own thinking
effectively and make that thinking open to the influence of others."

4) Building Shared Vision--This goes beyond the trend for developing a
"vision statement." This is the discipline "for translating individual
vision (many people's, not one person's as in classical management theory)
into shared vision--not a 'cookbook' but a set of principles and guiding
practices....that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than

5) Team Learning--This discipline begins with an understanding and use of
"dialogue." "(Dialogue differs from the more common "discussion," which
has its roots with "percussion" and "concussion," literally a heaving of
ideas back and forth in a winner-takes-all competition.)" Teams of people
learn to suspend their assumptions and enter into a "thinking together,"
and are therefore capable of learning together what individually they
could not. I consider it brain sharing. Many problems facing society
today are indeed solvable, but they're all beyond the ability of any one
brain, or even many brains scattered about, looking at the elephant from
different perspectives. There is serious power in bringing those brains

[Note: Quotes are taken from _The Fifth Discipline_ by Peter Senge.]

Ginger Shafer
The Leadership Dimension
"Bringing Leadership to Life"

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <> -or- <>