Traditional & Learning Organizations
Introduction Peter Senge is a Senior Lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of the widely-acclaimed book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (1990). He can be said to be responsible for the popularity of the concept of a ‘learning organization’ today. Peter Senge argues that not only we humans learn, but organizations also. However, learning itself may not be enough for the organization to survive in this ever-challenging era. In his book, The Fifth Discipline, Senge introduced five ‘disciplines’, namely systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, building shared vision, and team learning, that characterizes an organization as a learning organization.
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A traditional organization, on the other hand, does not practice this. When faced with a problem, a quick fix is utilized even though it does not necessarily solve the problem. No lesson is learned from short-term quick fixes. To sum it up, a learning organization is a flexible, participative, creative, and enterprising organization where as a traditional organization is formal, bureaucratic, strict and short-term oriented.
The Five Disciplines Peter Senge distinguished a learning organization from a traditional organization through five disciplines: systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, and team learning.
1. Systems Thinking For Peter Senge, systems thinking is the vital discipline to a learning organization. It is essentially the ‘fifth discipline’ as it is the ‘glue’ that binds and integrates all the disciplines together. Systems thinking can be defined as the ability to look beyond personalities and events, and understands the underlying patterns and structures which shape the organization as a whole (Mario deSantis, 1998). Senge argues that one of the key problems with much that is written about, and done in the name of management, is that rather simplistic frameworks are applied to what are complex systems (Senge 1990). Systems thinking permits the members of an organization to look further than the immediate circumstance and to