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5 Learning Disciplines

‘If there is one single thing a learning organisation does well, it is helping people embrace change. People in learning organisations react more quickly when their environment changes because they know how to anticipate changes that are going to occur… and how to create the kinds of changes they want. Change and learning may not exactly be synonymous, but they are inextricably linked.’ Peter Senge et al 5th Discipline Fieldbook p. 11

Bill Cropper of The Change Forum will discuss "Leading with Feelings - 7 Practices of EI Leaders" at  the Leadership Lounge to be held in Brisbane on February 13, 2007.  Register your interest through Leadership Connexion

 

Five Learning Disciplines...

In 1990, Peter Senge published "The Fifth Discipline" (later followed by "The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization" in 1994). His books pulled together his extensive research into what different organisations do to build learning capacity – and why some organisations use learning better than others.

Senge codified these practices into what he called 'The 5 Learning Disciplines' as well as coming up with the concept-label of 'learning organisations'.

The 5 Learning Disciplines Shared Vision, Mental Models, Personal Mastery, Team Learning and Systems Thinking – are each made up of a set of tools and practices for building and sustaining learning leadership capability in organisations. Each Discipline consists of:

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Principles, propositions or concepts (Senge calls these ‘guiding ideas’)

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Tools or techniques that, once learned and practised, assist in making the Disciplines come to life

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Practices or precepts to follow in your own leadership behaviour and approaches

According to Senge, leaders in learning organisations learn to thrive on change and constantly innovate by methodically cultivating these 5 Disciplines. They may never be fully mastered, but learning-centred leaders, teams and organisations practise them continuously.

Our approach to workplace improvement and learning-centred leadership is based firmly in the values, concepts, principles and language of learning organisations.

   The 5 Leadership Learning Disciplines in brief are:

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Shared Vision: The key vision question is ‘What do we want to create together?’. Taking time early in the change process to have the conversations needed to shape a truly shared vision is crucial to build common understandings and commitments, unleash people’s aspirations and hopes and unearth reservations and resistances.  Leaders learn to use tools such as ‘Positive Visioning’, 'Concept-shifting’ and ‘Values Alignment’ to create a shared vision, forge common meaning/focus and mutually agree what the learning targets, improvement strategies and challenge-goals should be to get there.

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Mental Models: One key to change success is in surfacing deep-seated mental models - beliefs, values, mind-sets and assumptions that determine the way people think and act. Getting in touch with the thinking going on about change in your workplace, challenging or clarifying assumptions and encouraging people to reframe is essential.  Leaders learn to use tools like the 'Ladder of Inference' and 'Reflective Inquiry' to practise making their mental models clearer for each other and challenging each others' assumptions in order to build shared understanding.

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Personal Mastery is centrally to do with ‘self-awareness’ – how much we know about ourselves and the impact our behaviour has on others. Personal mastery is the human face of change – to manage change relationships sensitively, to be willing to have our own beliefs and values challenged and to ensure our change interactions and behaviours are authentic, congruent and principled. Leaders learn to use tools like 'Perceptual Positions' and 'Reframing' to enhance the quality of interaction and relationship in and outside their teams.

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Team Learning happens when teams start ‘thinking together’ – sharing their experience, insights, knowledge and skills with each other about how to do things better. Teams develop reflection, inquiry and discussion skills to conduct more skillful change conversations with each other which form the basis for creating a shared vision of change and deciding on common commitments to action. It’s also about teams developing the discipline to use the action learning cycle rigorously in change-work.  Leaders learn to use tools like the 'Action-Learning Cycle' and 'Dialogue' to develop critical reflection skills and conduct more robust, skillful discussions with their teams and each other. 

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Systems Thinking is a framework for seeing inter-relationships that underlie complex situations and interactions rather than simplistic (and mostly inaccurate) linear cause-effect chains. It enables teams to unravel the often hidden subtleties, influences, leverage points and intended/unintended consequences of change plans and programs and leads to deeper, more complete awareness of the interconnections behind changing any system. Leaders learn to use 'Systems Thinking Maps' and 'Archetypes' to map and analyse situations, events, problems and possible causes/courses of action to find better (and often not obvious) change options/solutions.

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