The Fifth Discipline

by Ron Potter

I retired from business travel at age 70.  I just turned 74 and it seems impossible that it has already been four years.  During my business career, I did a lot of reading.  I read novels and business books.  I never talked too much about the business books I was reading because I assumed that most of the business leaders I was working with were also reading the same books.

I Was Wrong

Those leaders were so engulfed in running and leading their businesses they really didn’t have time for outside reading.  Although some of the books are old, they contain many pearls of wisdom about leading and running a business.  I’m going to spend the next few weeks sharing some of the wisdom I picked up from those books.

The Fifth Discipline

This is a book by Peter Senge talks about four skills of great teams then wraps it all together with Integrated Learning, the fifth displine.  He outlines this book into four categories:

  1. Personal Mastery
  2. Mental Models
  3. Building Shared Vision
  4. Team Learning
  5. Integrated Learning
    At the heart of a learning organization is a mind—from seeing ourselves as separate from the world to connected to the world.
    From seeing problems as caused by someone or something “out there” to seeing how our own actions create the problems we experience.

Personal Mastery

Senge talks about people with a high level of personal mastery are people who are able to consistently realize the results that matter most deeply to them.

They do that by becoming committed to their own lifelong learning.

Mental Models

Mental models are deeply ingrained assumptions and generalizations of how we understand the world and take action.  This 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 scrutiny.  People expose their own thinking effectively and make that thinking open to the influence of others.

Building Shared Vision

We are hard-pressed to think of any organization that has sustained some measure of greatness in the absence of goals, values, and missions that become deeply shared throughout the organization.

The practice of shared vision involves the skills of unearthing shared “pictures of the future” that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance.

Team Learning

Team learning starts with dialogue.  To the Greeks, dialogues meant a free-flowing of meaning through a group, allowing the group to discover insights not attainable individually.

Dialog differs from the more common discussion which has its roots in percussion and concussion.  Literally a heaving of ideas back and forth in a winner-takes-all competition.

Fifth Discipline: Integrated Learning

The fifth discipline is the discipline that integrates the disciplines, fusing them into a coherent body of theory and practice.

By enhancing each of the other disciplines, it continually reminds us that the whole can exceed the sum of its parts.

At the heart of a learning organization is a shift of mind from seeing ourselves as separate from the world to connected to the world, from seeing problems caused by someone or something “out there” to see how our own actions create the problems we experience.

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