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An afternoon with Peter Senge

Peter Senge was one of the Keynote speakers at our business trip this week. Senge is the author of The Fifth Discipline and one of the foremost gurus on Organizational Learning. He has helped numerous organizations stay ahead. Here are my take-aways from the speech

*It is a common myth that one looses her induviduality when she is part of a team. "I must feel less of who I am to fit in" is the characteristic of mediocre teams.

* Teams and organizations are not about feeling good or making good relationships. Results are the key.

* It is another myth that we must steamroll one another to get ahead.

*Skills on the offset are learnt over time. They are key to a Learning Organization.

*Organizational Learning is defined as How groups of people enhance their abilities to reach the goals they seek to reach.

* The word 'Learning' is often associated with school, with boredom and with being controlled.
* School is not that much about learning.Most learning comes from life's challenges and traumas.

*Learning is a process to produce the capacity to produce the results I want to produce. It is basic. It is what makes our life interesting.

*Learning has a tendency to get abstract. All work is about creating value. It is the essense of any organization and learning is a part of it. All organizations are learning at some level.

* Most Fortune 500s last for only 30 to 40 years. Their lilfespan is shorter today. Some good organizations with all the resources have failed. The majority of them cannot adapt to change.

* Learning for organizations is based on team learning. As managers, we learn to work with others.

* How often do things stand out as exceptions in an organization? Why does it not happen too often. It was widely known for ages that flight was possible. Why did it not happen soon enough?
* Innovation is the process of an idea reaching a critical mass. It does not happen often enough.

* What happens when organizations get bigger?

* Incentive Systems: There are millions of ways to set up organizational reward systems wrong! We simply cannot get passionate with reward systems. There are two broad categories of reward systems:
Extrinsic: Salary and Perks
Intrinsic: An inner sense of success.
One cannot substitute extrinsic motivation for intrinsic feelings.

* Organizations that learn continuosly improve their reward systems. However, they never assume that reward systems are the only ways to improve motivation.

*Meta-Learning: The process of learning how to learn.

* Characteristics of a good team

  • The Living Company by Arie De Geus states that Companies have a sense of who they are, that transcends what they do.
  • Most visions are BS. BS is to say one thing and to do another.
  • Good teams have a sense of Identity
  • Tolerance
    • Companies must have a hifh tolerance for experimentation in the margin.
    • Companies must extend to different ways of management.
    • Companies must have a way to manage risk.
    • They must have a cultural environment where it is OK to fail.
    • Most employees in organizations believe that if you make a mistake, your career is over.-As a result they lie a lot.
    • in which they operate, their communities, their surroundings.
  • Good companies exhibit Fiscal Conservatism. They exhibit aversion to debt.
  • Good companies are tuned into the environment. They are aware of the context they belong to.
  • Soul Communities and Vision
    • Earlier no one used the word vision in an organization.
    • The word 'Vision' has moved from weird to banal.
    • Demmings, towards the end of his life never called it a vision. He called it the transformation of the quality of management.
    • Every culture shares a vision.
    • It is a word that has a deep meaning for each of us. Meaninfulness is the main part.
    • People who grow up ask: "What am I learning about?" Only a 5 year old can tell you what he wants.
    • At some level, visions get personal.
    • Companies do not create visions, merely vision statements.
    • How can we create a vision from 10 directions? How can we have a common cause? Vision statements are thus useless.
    • The real question is how our decision influenced the vision. If it did not, it is BS.
    • The process of creating a vision is never over. It is a continual process of learning.
  • Trust
    • Trust is a defining feature of good teams.
    • We cannot build trust by trying to build trust.
    • The conventional view of a leader is someone who is articulate, forceful and about 6'2".
    • A good leader is one who asks a question no one has asked before.
    • For every complex problem, there is a simple solution which is WRONG.
    • Few real questions come up in teams.
    • Did'nt we try this before is not a question.
    • Dont try to pretend you know all the answers. It will force you to lie.
    • The real question is " I do not know the answer".
    • At strategic moments show your vulnerability, and the organization will grow.
    • Weeks after an Intel layoffs, Andy Grove said that some layoffs were unnecessary and that this may happen again!.
    • Inquiry and Advocacy are important for conversations. One manager who listened to these ideas said that this was the first time he thought!
  • Some leaders think of themselves as human commodities to produce profit.- Not true
  • It is not true that leaders drive change.
  • The word Human Resource must be dropped. How would you like to be called a Human Resource? A resource, by definition is something waiting to be used.
  • Read One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization by Hock (It says that a company must look like a rainforest.)
  • An organization that has long term financial abundance is like a human community.
  • Drucker: It is insane to think that the purpose of a company is to maximise profit.
  • Profit is like oxygen. It is necessary for life. It is however not our purpose to make oxygen.

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