Does Your Organization Have a Learning Disability?

In addition to borrowing some wisdom from Patrick Lencioni for our recent faculty/admin summit, I also siphoned some from Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline (1990). His point is made on the book’s jacket: “Learning disabilities are tragic in children, but they are fatal in organizations. Because of them, few corporations live even half as long as a person – most die before they reach the age of forty.”

In order to address a learning disability, you must first define it. Senge does this in the second chapter (note title above) by describing seven common ones. Here’s a summary.

1) “I am my position.”
“When asked what they do for a living, most people describe the tasks they perform every day, not the purpose of the greater enterprise in which they take part.” (p. 18)

2) “The enemy is out there.”
Don’t wait for what’s going on out there to change before you do.

3) The illusion of taking charge.
“All too often, ‘proactiveness’ is reactiveness in disguise.” (p.21)

4) The fixation on events
Decline is rarely the result of sudden events and almost always a slow, gradual process.

5) The Parable of the Boiled Frog
If you’ve been around Hyde at all, you know this one.

6) The delusion of learning from experience.
We generally never experience the consequences of our own actions. Rather, we inherit them from those who came before us and pass the consequences of our own mistakes on to those who follow us. As a result, the organization doesn’t get smarter.

7) The myth of the management team.
Too often, the team ends up fueling its own protective “skilled incompetence.”

Onward, Malcolm Gauld