MGMT 8007M: Week 4: Learning Disciplines Essay Assignment Paper

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MGMT 8007M: Week 4: Learning Disciplines Essay Assignment Paper

MGMT 8007M: Complexity and Applied Systems Thinking | Week 4

Accelerating economic, technological, social, and environmental change challenge managers and policy makers to learn at increasing rates, while at the same time, the complexity of the systems in which we live is growing. Many of the problems we now face arise as unanticipated side effects of our own past actions. All too often, the policies we implement to solve important problems fail, making the problem worse, or create new problems.

— John Sterman (2000)

Systems archetypes are patterns of behavior exhibited by social, natural, or artificial systems. They include limits to success, success to the successful, tragedy of the commons, eroding goals, growth and underinvestment, escalation, fixes that fail, and shifting the burden. For example, the limits-to-success archetype or pattern is found in corporations, and one of them is described in marketing terms as the product life cycle. It is found in educational systems as most students graduate from high school while few complete their doctoral studies, and it is found in biological systems when food or water supplies limit population growth or success. Systems archetypes and other systems dynamics models include variables and their relationships. When feedback loops are formed, they are either positive (reinforcing) loops that amplify or negative (goal-seeking) loops that dampen or stabilize.

Consider the archetypes (patterns) you can find from a leadership perspective. How can those archetypes help you find possible interventions to organizational problems? This week, you examine the archetypes of an organization from a leadership perspective.

Learning Objectives

This week, you will:

  • Analyze barriers to learning organizations
  • Apply learning disciplines to organizations


You will develop the following skills:

  • Systems thinking

Learning Resources

Recommended Readings

Reeves, M., & Deimler, M. (2011). Adaptability: The new competitive advantage. Harvard Business Review, 89(7–8), 135–141. Retrieved from:

Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art & practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday.

  • Chapter 8, “Personal Mastery” (pp. 129–162)
  • Chapter 9, “Mental Models” (pp. 163–190)
  • Chapter 10, “Shared Vision” (pp. 191–215)
  • Chapter 11, “Team Learning” (pp. 216–252)

To practice a discipline is to be a lifelong learner. You never arrive; you spend your life mastering disciplines. You can never say, “We are a learning organization,” any more than you can say, “I am an enlightened person.” The more you learn, the more acutely aware you become of your ignorance.

—Senge (2006, p. 10)

Senge (2006) explained that combining five learning disciplines (systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, building shared vision, and team learning) can help organizations learn and innovate. It is important to note that each discipline hinges upon the success or failure of the others. Two of these disciplines are individual: mental models and personal mastery. Two of the disciplines are team- or group-oriented: building shared vision and team learning. Systems thinking integrates and extends these disciplines to achieve better outcomes.

Mental models are those values, beliefs, concepts, and ideas we tacitly hold in our minds. To the extent that our mental models are rigid, we may find it difficult to learn and do new things. To the extent that our mental models are more flexible, we may find it easier to learn and do something different. There is no fixed point on the spectrum of rigidity and flexibility that is optimal, but it is something to be aware of and perhaps consciously alter as circumstances change.

To prepare for this Discussion, review the resources and reflect upon Senge’s (2006) five disciplines. Consider how you may use the disciplines to help managers and leaders learn to improve organizations. Think of this discussion as a shared conversation with your peers.

By Day 3

Initial Post

Post an analysis of potential barriers faced by organizations in their attempts to become learning organizations. Next, provide two potential ways you might advise organizations to overcome those barriers using the five learning disciplines. Finally, explain how you, as a leader in a learning organization, might use learning disciplines to improve organizational learning.

By Day 5

Responses to your Colleagues

Respond to at least two colleagues’ posts by offering additional means to use a learning discipline to overcome one of their selected barriers.

Note: Include proper APA citations to support all statements by referencing sources from relevant peer-reviewed articles published within the last 5 years.

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