Starting Dialogue LO5984

John Woods (
Tue, 5 Mar 1996 06:28:32 -0600 (CST)

Replying to LO5963 -- was: Intro -- Tuwenia Barnes

Tuwenia Barnes asks:
>I have listened to "The Fifth Discipline" on audio cassettes as well as
>reviewed the book and the Fieldbook. I have one question that would help
>me a lot in understand this concept. If your organization is not currently
>following the disciplines, how do you get people motivated to think about
>their personal vision? How do you get people to even start using dialogue?
>>From the readings, I understand that these things cannot be forced on
>employees, but just how would one get started? Say for example, you're a
>manager or an executive and you want to turn your company into one that is
>focusing on team learning. What do you do first?

I'm not sure there is an answer as to what you do first, but for me the
value of the ideas in Senge's book come from the insights they provide
into what organizations are and how they work. In other words, we might
suggest that following the disciplines is not the issue. At some level of
proficiency, all organizations are learning organizations. It is not
whether they learn, but what they learn and how well they use that to make
their systems work well.

Every organization has a culture. In understanding that culture, we can
begin to understand how the systems operate in that organization and what
type of learning people value, such as how to compete better against one
another or how to cooperate and communicate better with one another. In
both cases, there will be a shared vision, in a manner of speaking, there
will be a mental model, there will be a form of team learning, and so on.

However, in the organization where there is a lot internal competition and
departments working at cross purposes with each other, the systems won't
work as well as in those organizations that practice cooperation. What
does this show? For me, it says wake up and look around. Your
organization is a system and there are some good ideas available for
effectively managing your system. Why do you want to use poor system
practices? That doesn't make sense.

If the systems view and ideas such as in The Fifth Discipline have any
value, this comes not just from showing us what we should do, but in
helping us understand why current practices don't get the results we are
looking for. So for me, helping people transform their organizations
starts with consciousness raising. The issue, as stated above, is not
whether you are managing a learning organization, but how well. If you
want to succeed in today's economy, you better understand this and use
techniques that will work the best.

By the way, I really like the title of the course you are taking. That
was very creative on the part of your instructor. I hope this is helpful.

John Woods

-- (John Woods)

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