The fifth discipline by Peter Senge is probably the most influential book on learning organizations. It laid the theoretical groundwork for creating learning organizations by defining five essential skills: Systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision and team learning.
The Fifth discipline fieldbook follows up on the theory, and offers a wealth of methods and tools to strenghten the practice of the disciplines. It also contains lots of case stories from many different companies.
The book is excellent. The practical element added to the original theory gives the subject a new depth. The case stories especially are a joy to read.
The book’s only drawback is that it’s old – published in 1994. I’d like to know what’s been happening in the meantime.
The main thing that I learned from the fieldbook, is the time factor. Repeatedly it is stressed, that trying to change a medium-sized or large organization takes years. Two of the case stories mention periods of four to six years to define and introduce cultural changes or a shared vision. This is a bit different than sending top-level management of on a three day retreat, have them return with a Vision, and then spending a month or two selling the vision in the organization. It will not work! It takes time and commitment.