Management And Accounting Web

Senge, P. M. 1990. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York, NY: Doubleday.

Partial Outline by James R. Martin, Ph.D., CMA
Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida

Deming Main Page | Systems Thinking Main Page

Part I. How Our Actions Create Our Reality and How We can Change it.

Chapter 1. Give me a lever long enough ... and single-handed I can move the world.

Breaking problems into parts causes an enormous hidden price. We can not see the consequences of our actions and we loose our intrinsic sense of connection to a larger whole. To build learning organizations we must give up the illusion that the world is made up of separate unrelated forces.

What separates learning organizations from traditional authoritarian controlling organizations is the mastery of five basic disciplines as follows:

Systems Thinking - this is the Fifth discipline. Systems thinking includes a conceptual framework, a body of knowledge and tools to make the full patterns clearer.

Personal Mastery - Continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision. This prevents the reactive mindset where we blame our problems on someone or something else.

Mental Models - Deeply ingrained assumptions that influence the way we understand the world and the actions we take.

Building a Shared Vision - Holding a shared picture of the future we seek to create.

Team Learning - Where team members suspend assumptions and began thinking together.

"The more you learn, the more acutely aware you become of your ignorance."

Senge defines "learning organization" as "an organization that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future." Learning organizations must combine survival learning, or adaptive learning with generative learning. Generative learning enhances the organization’s capacity to create.

Chapter 2. Does your organization have a learning disability?

Seven learning disabilities:

I am my position - People see their responsibility as limited to their position.

The enemy is out there - A by-product of "I am my position".

The illusion of taking charge - Proactiveness becomes reactiveness.

The fixation on events - Gradual processes are the primary threats, not short-term events.

The parable of the boiled frog - See Martin, J. R. Not dated. Summary of the 1992 PBS Program Quality or Else. Management And Accounting Web.

The delusion of learning from experience - We learn from experience, but we never experience the consequences of many of our decisions. We break organizations into components that become "stovepipes" that do not communicate across functional lines.

The myth of the management team - Teams are full of people who are proficient at keeping themselves from learning.

Chapter 3. Prisoners of the system, or prisoners of our own thinking.

See Martin, J. R. Not dated. The Beer Game. Management And Accounting Web.

Part II. The Fifth Discipline: The Cornerstone of the Learning Organization

Chapter 4. The Laws of the Fifth Discipline.

1. Today's problems come from yesterday's "solutions."

2. The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back. Compensating feedback - When interventions cause responses from the system that offset the benefits of the intervention.

3. Behavior grows better before it grows worse. A delay in compensating feedback.

4. The easy way out usually leads back in.

5. The cure can be worse than the disease. - The consequence of applying nonsystemic solutions causes more need for a solution.

6. Faster is slower.

7. Cause and effect are not closely related in time and space. This is a problem because most people assume that cause and effect are connected in time and space.

8. Small changes can produce big results - but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious. Learning to see the underlying structures rather than events is a starting point for finding the high-leverage changes.

9. You can have you cake and eat it too - but not at once.

10. Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants. "The principle of the system boundary" - The most important interactions to solving an issue are not limited to organizational boundaries. But the way organizations are designed keeps people from seeing these important interactions.

11. There is no blame. Systems thinking shows that you and the cause of your problems are part of the same system.

Chapter 5. A Shift of Mind

Seeing the World Anew - Systems thinking is seeing interrelationships rather than cause-effect chains, and seeing processes of change rather than snapshots.

Seeing Circles of Causality - Seeing circles of influence rather than straight lines. The idea is to stop thinking that there must be an individual, or individual agent responsible (scapegoat), and instead recognize that the structure causes the problem.

Reinforcing and Balancing Feedback and Delays: The Building Blocks of Systems Thinking

Reinforcing Feedback: Discovering How Small Changes Can Grow

The self-fulfilling prophecy or Pygmalion effect - Reinforcing processes.

Balancing Processes: Discovering The Sources of Stability and Resistance

Chapter 6. Nature's Templates: Identifying the patterns that control events.

Chapter 7. The principle of leverage. Seeing where actions and changes in structures can lead to significant improvements.

Chapter 8. The art of seeing the forest and the trees. Seeing through complexity to the underlying structures generating change.

Part III. The Core Disciplines: Building the Learning Organization

Chapter 9. Personal Mastery - Organizations learn only through individuals who learn.

Chapter 10. Mental Models

Chapter 11. Shared Vision

Chapter 12. Team Learning

Part IV.

Chapter 13. Openness

Chapter 14. Localness

Chapter 15. A manager's Time

Chapter 16. Ending the War between Work and Family

Chapter 17. Microworlds: the Technology of the Learning Organization

Chapter 18. The Leader's New Work

Part V. CODA

Chapter 19. A Sixth Discipline? The need to establish a foundation for the future.

Chapter 20. Rewriting the Code - This book provides the tools for understanding dynamic complexity.

Two types of complexity:

Detail - many varibles.

Dynamic - When cause and effect are not close in time and space.

Chapter 21. The Indivisible Whole

Appendix 1: The Learning Disciplines

Appendix 2: Systems Archetypes


Other Books:

Senge, P. M. 2008. The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organisations are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World. Nicholas Brealey Publishing Ltd.

Senge, P. M., A. Kleiner, C. Roberts, G. Roth, R. Ross and B. Smith. 1999. The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations. Doubleday.

Senge, P. M., C. O. Scharmer, J. Jaworski and B. S. Flowers. 2004. Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future. Sol.

Related summaries:

Castellano, J. F., S. Young and H. A. Roehm. 2002. Teaching business as a system. Management Accounting Quarterly (Summer): 1-5. (Summary).

Christensen, C. M. 1997. Making strategy: Learning by doing. Harvard Business Review (November-December): 141-142, 144, 146, 148, 150-154, 156. (Summary).

Coutu, D. L. 2002. The anxiety of learning. Harvard Business Review (March): 100-107. (Summary).

De Geus, A. 1999. The living company. Harvard Business Review (March-April): 51-59. (Summary).

Deming, W. E. 1993. The New Economics For Industry, Government & Education. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Engineering Study. (Summary).

Elliott, R. K. 1992. The third wave breaks on the shores of accounting. Accounting Horizons 6 (June): 61-85. (Summary).

Higgins, T. T. Not dated. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne's A Thinking Roadmap.

Johnson, H. T. and A. Broms. 2000. Profit Beyond Measure: Extraordinary Results through Attention to Work and People. The Free Press. (Summary and additional Graphics and Notes).

Martin, J. R. Not dated. Russell Ackoff quotes and f-laws. Management And Accounting Web.

Martin, J. R. Not dated. Russell Ackoff: What is a system? Videos.

Martin, J. R. Not dated. The Beer Game. Management And Accounting Web.

McNair, C. J. 1990. Interdependence and control: Traditional vs. activity-based responsibility accounting. Journal of Cost Management (Summer): 15-23. (Summary).

McNair, C. J. and L. P. Carr. 1994. Responsibility redefined. Advances in Management Accounting (3): 85-117. (Summary).