Having heard a lot recently about Systems Thinking, I thought it best to re prioritize my reading list and place some popular Systems thinking books at the top of my list. One of those books was The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge.

The Fifth Discipline was a light and practical read. It described in detail what Systems Thinking is, how it relates to the Learning Organization and the other 4 key disciplines (noted below) of a Learning Organization.

Reading through the book I did feel that many of the ideas in Systems Thinking overlaps greatly with what I had learned from lean principles, I didn't feel that the ideas were new to me but I did find it very valuable to see similar ideas presented from another view point. I also liked the language used when talking about systems thinking, Dynamic vs. Detail Complexity, Reinforcing vs. Balancing Feedback, Circles of Causality and Delays in Systems.

The five disciplines that Senge refers to with regard to a learning organization in the book are:

  1. Personal mastery looking at reality objectively, deepening our personal vision, developing patience, a personal dedication to continuous focus, learning and growth.
  2. Building shared vision, ensuring the organisation has one shared goal that was created by those in the team and not dictated to them by a committee.
  3. Mental models, the constructs in our mind that enable us to make decisions and take action, how we arrive at answers and solutions.
  4. Team learning, prefer dialogue to allow a team to learn and evolve and improve their practices, in lean this is the defining a process and improving the process, working together collaborating, leaving titles at the door and letting people identify and find ways to improve together.
  5. Systems thinking, the concept of looking at the entire picture and how behaviors and actions feed back into the system and cause effects.

I also liked the commentary on the discussion of the Beer Game. The Beer Game is an activity conducted in MIT to teach supply chain management to students. It highlights to participants the consequences of thinking and acting as individuals and for the best interests of a subsystem. The game is good because it is able to show how all of those individual decisions and actions that appeared to be optimal for the subsystem were actually less then ideal for the whole system, emphasizing the importance for Systems Thinking, it is also a great example of Detail Complexity.

Overall the book was a great read and taught me a lot of new language and thinking that can be applied in day to day life as well as business.

This article was first noted down on the 5th of July, 2015.