Tag Archives: Systems theory

Quick review: The Fifth Discipline

The Fifth Discipline: The Art And Practice Of The Learning OrganizationThe Fifth Discipline: The Art And Practice Of The Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I first met systems theory in ministry training post-theological college. This was in connection to pastoral care for people, taking note of the systems in which they live (family, workplace, peer group, church, etc).

This book is all about systems thinking and its use particularly in management. It is an effort to shift our thinking from simple linear cause-effect. In its stead is the more useful conception of two-way and mutual effect. For example, a business downtown might lead to cost-cutting, which causes further profit loss. Or a spouse might flee a difficult marriage by extra immersion at work, worsening the relationship problems.

There may be simple loops like these (positive or negative feedback). Of course many are far more complex, and systemic patterns will overlap to ‘interfere’ with each other.

The contention of Senge is that modern organisations must learn how to learn these systems. The ‘learning organization’ of the subtitle is not an educational organisation. It is one that observes, reflects and can thereby perceive deeper systemic behaviour behind the obvious surface data.

That all sounds a bit tech gibberish – showing I don’t really understand it yet. But that’s ok, because it’s about a way of thinking rather than being able to understand everything.

I think this book, and the ideas in it, is very useful for any kind of team or leadership.

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