• Team learning and shared vision

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    WE return to our discussion on Peter Senge’s five disciplines which are the processes involved in an organization’s efforts to realize the change that the organization desires. Earlier, we discussed second order change – a change not just of procedures, but of philosophy, mission and goals—hence, a change that is systemic and therefore irreversible. This is referred to as second order change as distinguished from a change that is merely cosmetic – termed as first order change. However, we qualified that modern research, rather than distinguishing first from second order change as a “kind” of change, first order change is considered as an evolutionary stage of second order change.

    To synthesize the process of embedding a second order change, an organization has to be a learning organization—“where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together.” Thus Peter Senge’s five disciplines “provide a process and a language to help people develop their capacity to hold and seek a vision, to reflect and inquire, to build collective capabilities and to understand systems.” This far, we have discussed personal mastery and mental models as two of the five disciplines recommended as the process and language to realize the change they truly aspire to materialize. The other three disciplines are team learning, shared vision and systems thinking.

    Team learning, considered by change gurus, as the most difficult to execute, refers to the process in which organizational constituents discuss with open minds the state of affairs they feel needs to be reviewed. Open minds mean the teams have capacity to suspend judgments, clarify assumptions through dialogue and discussion, reflect together, share their experiences and offer their knowledge and skills in all candor. They think and learn together. Discussions are anchored not on internal but external competition. It’s not a matter of an individual or group showing off. One writer referred to this thinking together as “change conversations with each other which form the basis for creating a shared vision of change and deciding on common commitments to action.”<http://www. thechangeforum.com/Learning_Disciplines.htm> Thus, team learning becomes the accumulation of individual learning. As active discussants, there “is the free and creative exploration of complex and subtle issues, a deep ‘listening’ to one another and suspending of one’s own views.” Deeply ingrained mental models that tend toward defensiveness develop from being stumbling blocks to willingness to accept new perspectives that pave the way to mutual understanding of a shared vision of the future. Individual members begin to develop shared meanings, shared understandings—a result of honest assessment of possible constraints and how together, these can be overcome to propel the organization towards the shared vision. <https://en. wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning _organization>
    However, some issues should be noted. Team learning assumes that all constituents from the higher-ups to the lowest echelon are committed to generative learning. For team learning to succeed, we assume that the pursuit of personal mastery “becomes an individual choice; therefore enforced take-up will not work” and that this learning connects properly to the organization’s strategic objectives. Also that the structure and organizational size are such that “inter-employee relationships” are kept healthy, internal “knowledge-sharing” is not hampered, culture and processes are taken into consideration and organizational politics minimally and not greatly, reduce “connective efficacy.” It has been noted that “as the size of an organizational unit increases, the effectiveness of internal knowledge flows dramatically diminishes and the degree of intra-organizational knowledge sharing decreases.” <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning _organization>
    Shared Vision, a fourth discipline refers to “building a sense of commitment in a group, by developing shared images of the future” which organizational constituents seek to create, and the principles and guiding practices by which (they) hope to get there.” The practice of this discipline fosters genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance.”
    <Schools That Learn Annex Copyright © 2000 Peter Senge, Nelda Cambron-McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Bryan Smith, Janis Dutton and Art Kleiner> It is “bringing into alignment the vision and efforts of people organization-wide,” ensuring that organizational resources, both human and material, do not go to waste but are properly utilized towards the vision pursued. Periodically, members monitor and test whether or not they are leading to the vision; hence there are bases for alignment as necessary. Collegiality is a given and the more individual members participate actively in monitoring and assessing the strategic plan, the more certain that they are still on deck—enthusiastic and passionate. The shared vision as a process continuously co-creates the desired future. (Senge, 1994: 315-322)

    Given that the vision is in place, the developed culture attendant to that change has to continue in the consciousness of constituents. Inducting and acculturating new members, policies and practices that accommodate holistic caring – responsive to the professional, the organizational and personal-spiritual dimensions of personnel needs—ensuring the nurturance of belongingness in every member. Finally, as change experts would ask, “What are the processes and practices that could help create community and a sense of what’s important? How can regular, open and honest feedback become a valued contribution to building shared meaning and helping people to grow?” http://integral-focus.com/pdf/ Senge.pdf This question necessitates for us to have an informed understanding of the language and process of change in context of our values system as well as generational differences.

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    Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, Ph.D., is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.

    ttumapon@gmail.com

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