Partial Summary and
Outline by James R. Martin, Ph.D., CMA
Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida
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. p. 3.
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. "...Shared pictures of the future that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance."
Team Learning - Where team members suspend assumptions and began thinking together. Teams are the fundamental learning unit of the organization. The organization cannot learn unless its teams can learn.
"The more you learn, the more acutely aware you become of your ignorance."
The Fifth Discipline
The fifth discipline integrates the other disciplines into a coherent body of theory and practice and shows us that the whole can exceed the sum of the parts.
Metanoia - A Shift of Mind
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.
Putting the Ideas into Practice
This book is for learners, particularly those interested in collective learning.
Chapter 2. Does your organization have a learning disability? p. 17.
Seven learning disabilities:
I am my position - People see their responsibility as limited to their position. As a result they do not feel responsible for the results produced when all positions interact.
The enemy is out there - A by-product of "I am my position". We do not see how our actions produce effects outside of our position. This causes us to view problems as having external causes. For example, a company might view the cause of its declining sales as Japanese competition, labor unions, or government regulation, when their own lack of quality is internal.
The illusion of taking charge - Proactiveness becomes reactiveness. Real proactiveness means understanding how we contribute to our own problems.
The fixation on events - Gradual processes (e.g., environmental decay and the erosion of the education system) are the primary threats, not short-term events.
The parable of the boiled frog - This shows what happens when we do not see the gradual processes that are our biggest threats. See Martin, J. R. Not dated. Summary of the 1992 PBS Program Quality or Else. Management And Accounting Web. https://maaw.info/QualityOrElse.htm
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. Therefore, complex cross functional issues are not recognized and addressed.
The myth of the management team - Teams are full of people who are proficient at keeping themselves from learning, i.e., "skilled incompetence".
Disabilities and Disciplines
Short discussion and some examples of leaders who could not see the consequences of their own actions, e.g., U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The five disciplines can act as antidotes to these learning disabilities.
Chapter 3. Prisoners of the system, or prisoners of our own thinking. p. 27.
The beer game is a simulation designed to illustrate the learning disabilities in action. See Martin, J. R. Not dated. The Beer Game. Management And Accounting Web. https://maaw.info/TheBeerGame.htm
Part II. The Fifth Discipline: The Cornerstone of the Learning Organization
Chapter 4. The Laws of the Fifth Discipline. p. 57.
1. Today's problems come from yesterday's "solutions." Solutions to a problem in one part of the system shift the problem to another part of the system. The one who solved the old problem is not the one who inherits the new problem.
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. Continuing to try familiar solutions while the problems persist or get worse.
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. Favorite solutions may not be the answer, but inaction may make matters worse. Systems thinking is more challenging, but also more promising than the normal ways of solving problems.
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. However, in complex systems, cause and effect are not close 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. Thinking in terms of processes of change is another useful approach.
9. You can have you cake and eat it too - but not at once. An example of not thinking in terms of the underlying structures and processes is the view that low cost and high quality are mutually exclusive. They appear as either-or choices at a fixed point in time, but leverage comes from seeing how both can improve over time.
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. (See my discussion of responsibility accounting).
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 p. 68.
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. p. 93.
Archetype 1: Limits to Growth
Where it is Found
Pattern of Behavior
How to Achieve Leverage
Archetype 2: Shifting the Burden
Where it is Found
Understanding and Using the Structure
Pattern of Behavior
How to Achieve Leverage
Chapter 7. The principle of leverage. Seeing where actions and changes in structures can lead to significant improvements. "The bottom line of systems thinking is leverage - seeing where actions and changes in structures can lead to significant, enduring improvements." p. 114.
When We Create Our Own "Market Limitations"
Choosing Between Self-Limiting or Self-Sustaining Growth
Chapter 8. The art of seeing the forest and the trees. Seeing through complexity to the underlying structures generating change. "In effect, the art of systems thinking lies in seeing through complexity to the underlying structures generating change." p. 127.
The Perils of Being a Pioneer
A Theory of What Happened at People Express
Part III. The Core Disciplines: Building the Learning Organization
Chapter 9. Personal Mastery. p. 139.
The Spirit of the Learning Organization. "Organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning."
Mastery and Proficiency
Why we Want it
The Discipline of Personal Mastery
Holding Creative Tension
Structural Conflict: The Power of Your Powerlessness
Commitment to the Truth
Using the Subconscious, or You Don't Really Need to Figure it All Out
Personal Mastery and The Fifth Discipline
Integrating Reason and Intuition
Seeing Our Connectedness to the World
Commitment to the Whole
Fostering Personal Mastery in an Organization
Chapter 10. Mental Models p. 174.
Why the Best Ideas Fail
Incubating a New Business Worldview
Overcoming "The Basic Diseases of the Hierarchy"
The Discipline of Mental Models
"Planning as Learning" and "Internal Boards": Managing Mental Models Throughout and Organization
Reflection and Inquiry Skills: Managing Mental Models at Personal and Interpersonal Levels
Mental Models and The Fifth Discipline
Chapter 11. Shared Vision p. 205.
A Common Caring
Why Shared Visions Matter
The Discipline of Building Shared Vision
Encouraging Personal Vision
From Personal Vision to Shared Visions
Spreading Visions: Enrollment, Commitment, and Compliance
Guidelines for Enrollment and Commitment
Anchoring Vision in a Set of Governing Ideas
Positive Versus Negative Vision
Creative Tension and Commitment to the Truth
Shared Vision and The Fifth Discipline
Why Vision Die Prematurely
The Missing Synergy: Shared Vision and Systems Thinking
Chapter 12. Team Learning p. 233.
The Potential Wisdom Teams
The Discipline of Team Learning
Dialogue and Discussion
Dealing with "Current Reality": Conflict and Defensive Routines
The Missing Link: Practice
Learning How "To Practice"
Team Learning and The Fifth Discipline
Part IV. Prototypes
Chapter 13. Openness p. 273
How Can the Internal Politics and Game Playing that Dominate Traditional Organizations Be Transcended?
Shared Vision: Building and Environment where Self-Interest is not Paramount
Participative Openness and Reflective Openness
Openness and Complexity
The Spirit of Openness
Chapter 14. Localness p. 287.
How do You Achieve Control without Controlling?
The Illusion of "Being in Control"
The illusion is the perception that someone at the top could possibly control what happens in a complex organization.
Control without "Controlling"
The New Role of Central Management
Chapter 15. A manager's Time p. 302.
How do Managers Create the Time for Learning?
Chapter 16. Ending the War between Work and Family p. 306.
How can Personal Mastery and Learning Flourish at Work and at Home?
The Structure of Work/Family Imbalance
The Individual's Role
The Organization's Role
Chapter 17. Microworlds: the Technology of the Learning Organization p. 313.
How can We Rediscover the Child Learner Within Us?
Microworld 1: Future Learning: Discovering Internal Contradictions in a Strategy
Microworld 2: Seeing Hidden Strategic Opportunities: How Our Beliefs Influence Our Customers' Preferences
Microworld 3: Discovering Untapped Leverage: The Drift to Low Quality in Service Businesses
The Claims Learning Laboratory
Managing For Quality in Service Businesses
Microworlds and Organizational Learning
Chapter 18. The Leader's New Work p. 339.
What Does it Take to Lead a Learning Organization?
Leader As Designer
Leader As Steward
Leader As Teacher
How Can Such Leaders by Developed?
Time to Choose
Part V. CODA
Chapter 19. A Sixth Discipline? p. 363.
A new discipline may emerge, but the immediate task is to establish a foundation for the future.
Chapter 20. Rewriting the Code - This book provides the tools for understanding dynamic complexity. p. 364.
Two types of complexity:
Detail - many variables.
Dynamic - When cause and effect are not close in time and space.
Chapter 21. The Indivisible Whole p. 368.
Discussion of how astronaut Rusty Schweickart discovered the first principles of systems thinking from direct experience. Nature is not made up of parts within wholes, but wholes within wholes.
Appendix 1: The Learning Disciplines p. 373.
Appendix 2: Systems Archetypes p. 378.
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.
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. https://maaw.info/ArticleSummaries/ArtSumHigginsThinkingRoadmap.htm
Martin, J. R. Not dated. Russell Ackoff quotes and f-laws. Management And Accounting Web. https://maaw.info/RussellAckoff.htm
Martin, J. R. Not dated. Russell Ackoff: What is a system? Videos. https://maaw.info/RussellAckoffVideos.htm
Martin, J. R. Not dated. The Beer Game. Management And Accounting Web. https://maaw.info/TheBeerGame.htm
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).