Library System Aims to Mirror Learning Organization Model

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Long

"The Learning Organization" was a phase coined by MIT professor Peter Senge in his 1994 landmark book, "The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization." At the North Suburban Library System, we have been working to become a Learning Organization for the past three years. We feel this is important because the pace of change in our profession is so fast and chaotic.

In the Learning Organization, all employees share a vision and decisions are made at every level. In the old style, hierarchical organization, only bosses make decisions and that's just too slow these days.

The Learning Organization embraces a paradox: teamwork is essential and expected, but each individual must have a strong personal commitment to his/her own growth and development. Peter Senge calls this "personal mastery." It's one of Senge's five disciplines.

When we started this journey to become a Learning Organization, we began with personal mastery. We all studied Steven Covey's best selling "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" and focused on our personal visions for our lives. We asked ourselves, "Is working at the North Suburban Library System exactly where I want to be right now?" Later, we studied the other disciplines: systems thinking, which is about seeing wholes and identifying patterns; team learning, which includes learning how to engage in dialog with others and truly listen. It's also about the wonderful synergy that can develop in a well-functioning team. Shared vision is the fourth discipline and the fifth is mental models, which is about learning to identify assumptions and being open to change. …