The term “learning organization” in America and Europe received a wide application more than 10 years ago. From the existing concepts of the learning organization, a well known recognition was received by the concept introduced by Peter Senge in his book “The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization”. This paper analyzes the concept of the learning organization based on the views presented in Senge’s book.
Defining the learning organization, it can be said that they are the organization in which “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.” (Senge, 2006, p. 3).
It cannot be said, that the learning organization is a new model of structuring and developing a company. It is more likely a mix from the management tools such as openness with employees, encouragement of new ideas, stimulation of mutual goals and etc, combined together. Peter Senge’s concept is based on five key disciplines and the ability of the organization to learn them.
The first “ability” is the mastery of personal perfection. Despite the fact that when people come to business they are full of enthusiasm and energy, only a few of them remain in the same working mood after the lapse of time. Most of such employees start to save their energy in order to busy themselves on weekends with things that interest them.
As a result by the thirties, people lose the devotion to their job, the feel of their personal importance and the inspiration. In that sense, not many companies encourage their employees to advance forward, where the rest have unused internal resource that are wasted in vain. “Personal mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively”(Senge, 2006, p. 7).
The second ability is the mental models. What Senge meant is that, for example, at the sight of elegantly dressed woman we can decide: “She is a member of country club”, and about a badly dressed person draw a conclusion: “He does not care what other people will think about him”. Models or stereotypes concerning various administrative situations are implanted in us, as well as in everyday situations.
For this reason many good administrative ideas remain unrealized, as they are limited by stereotypes. “The discipline of working with 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 scrutiny”(Senge, 2006, p. 8).
The third ability is the shared vision. Many leaders do not pay attention to the fact that their personal vision on the organization’s development is not understood and is not shared by all employees. According to Senge, because of the shared vision people study not because they were told to, but rather because they wanted to. “The practice of shared vision involves skills of unearthing shared “pictures of the future” that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance. In mastering this discipline, leaders learn the counterproductiveness of trying to dictate a vision, no matter how beautiful”(Senge, 2006, p. 9).
The forth ability is a team learning. However, in this case it is not about trainings or seminars, but about a free exchange of opinions in groups – a dialogue. Senge believes that namely the dialogue between employees leads to such discernments which can be absolutely inaccessible to everyone separately. “The discipline of team learning involves mastering the practices of dialogue and discussion, the two distinct ways that teams converse”(Senge, 2006, p. 220).
The fifth and the last ability is system thinking. Without this discipline all other abilities and knowledge will remain isolated methods, and a fashionable novelty of management science. The system thinking is an art of looking beyond, or figuratively the ability to see the wood behind the trees. Unfortunately, small events take 90 % of time, and the most important remains behind the scene. Senge is convinced that it is vital that all five disciplines are developed in ensemble, and not separately. “The essence of the discipline of systems thinking lies in a shift of mind: seeing interrelationships rather than linear cause-effect chains, and seeing processes of change rather than snapshots” (Senge, 2006, p. 73).
Summarizing the concept of Senge, the learning organization is a team united by shared vision and values of employees, which have the ability to develop, and improve the working process, relations, and also own understanding of the situation through constant reception of a feedback from colleagues, clients, partners, and mangers, i.e. from the external and internal environment.
The learning organization is the organization which by receiving a feedback uses it for self-perfection, creating the necessary conditions for the employees to learn and develop. In the context of the learning organization, learning is not just accumulation of knowledge, but sensible development of skills to use this knowledge. According to Senge, by implementing the cornerstones established in “The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization”, the managers can create the model of the learning organization within their company.
Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline : the art and practice of the learning organization (Rev. and illustrated ed.). New York: Random House, Inc.