Management of Organizational Flexibility

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Lecture Summaries

Summary (week I-2)

The learning organization creates a leverage that helps in achieving goals and attaining growth. That leverage is possible when managers think that the world is interconnected and instead of seeing it as broken, an organization has to act as a system to grow in it. To attain above-mentioned growth, learning organization has to derive innovations from inventions and should use them in a creative way according to the needs of the world. Hence, five disciplines on the name of systemic thinking, personal mastery, mental modes, to build a shared vision and team learning are important for a learning organization. From the above, the systemic thinking can be defined as fifth discipline, because it is capable of integrating the activities of different departments and individuals of the company. This is possible with shift of mind in individuals to understand the vision of other as well as the company. In this context, the importance of systemic thinking finds emphasis in the fact that the fortune 500 companies disappeared due to lack of it. Hence, how large the company may be, the absence of systemic thinking may result in downfall of the organization in the present era of globalization as the world is more connected than ever. To avoid the above destruction of the organization, the managers and individuals as part of the systemic thinking need not see the enemy outside the company but should think and act united for the vision of the company. However, the systemic thinking even weakens the concept of proactive thinking as it defines that as reactive in the absence of shared vision and systemic thinking between employees. In this context, the fixation of events comes to the fore and emphasizes the importance of evolution in a direction that ensures future growth and reduces the limitations of growth as well as obstacles. The significant aspect that needs attention in the above context is that the course of evolution as well as gradual change that decides the future change in the organization. Hence, a shared vision combined with a clear action plan that works on systemic thinking is necessary for a learning organization. In addition to that it is important to experience the consequences in mind before making a plan along with learning from experiences with an intention to avoid negative consequences or bitter experiences. That means to avoid bitter experiences; there should be a systemic thinking to avoid them by having an idea about the consequences of bitter experiences (Lecture note (week 1-2)).

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Summary (week 4-5)

By making the staff of an organization to act as a system, the managers of a learning organization should have compensative feedback that tells about the nullifying the effect of even timely interventions. The compensative feedback enables the managers to reduce the resistance from the organization for interventions to achieve the goals of the company. The more easy the way it seems, the manager should have more attention towards compensative feedback as part of developing systemic thinking as easy way normally leads back. Moreover, the compensative feedback helps the managers to understand the reality in the complex systems that is usually not estimated or perceived by the individuals without personal experience. However, as it is impossible to have personal experience in every system, it is important to have compensative feedback to avoid negative experiences. Hence, in attaining leverage for the activities of the company, the managers need to introduce small changes that enable the individuals to share the vision of the company thus making them to see the entire system instead of just concentrating on one’s work. In this context shift of mind comes to the fore, as systemic thinking results in a structure of interrelationships in the organization that develops shared vision between individuals. This enables to have high leverage from small changes in organization as the organization works as one. While creating the leverage the individuals think about causality and in that case the structure of the organization causes the behavior. The behavior should take feedback from the system and as a whole should be responsible for problem or an achievement. To solve a problem and to achieve goals; reinforcing, balancing feedback systems are necessary as the former concentrates on growth and the latter considers the feedback regarding a problem due to the growth. For example, in case of Sales, the reinforcing behavior is good as long as there is increase in sales due to mouth publicity and the balancing feedback is necessary in the context of decrease in sales due to negative mouth publicity. In the absence of balancing behavior it is not possible to think about the negative publicity for the product. After contemplating about balancing behavior and taking enough care about the avoidance of negative feedback through increasing the leverage by minimizing the system delays comes to the fore that balances aggressive actions. In the above course of action, it is important to have awareness about the structure as ignorance regarding is not complete systemic thinking or personal mastery. After understanding the structure, the systemic thinking makes the organization to remove the obstacles to the growth instead of pushing the growth. This is because, the growth happens almost continuously in the absence of obstacles after attaining leverage. Hence, attaining leverage, using reinforcing behavior for growth and balancing behavior to remove hurdles in the path of growth are important along with understanding the structure of a system (Lecture note (week 4-5)).

Summary (week 6)

Attaining leverage as well as understanding the system by individuals of an organization to think as a whole is possible by the intention of learning. Hence, individuals who learn constitute a learning organization. The learning individuals attain personal mastery that generates creative tension and makes them learn continuously. This results in commitment and enrollment as well as personal vision. In personal vision, there is no getting rid of, but only learning and applying. However, the existence of differences between vision and reality is not a quality of learning organization as it makes vision a reality or vice versa. However, it is important to differentiate emotional and creative tension as the latter is the key to fifth discipline of a learning organization. The creative tension minimizes the belief in powerlessness in individuals and thus enables them visualize the reality as part of their vision. In the course of above mentioned learning, it is important to realize the importance of truth in dealing with structural conflict. In the next stage, the managers of a learning organization have to consider the mental modes of the individuals as they may have different perceptions about the working nature of the world or the system. Hence, the important aspect of systemic thinking is to mould the mental models according to the learning organization as the differences may even disturb the systemic thinking. Hence, advocacy after inquiry can work in case of controlling mental models of the individuals (Lecture note, (week 6)).

Summary (week 8)

As part of controlling the mental models of individuals, the inherent aspect is to have shared vision for all individuals of a learning organization. Shared vision can be termed as force as it enables learning in organization. Instead of having a perception of defeating enemy it is important to have shared vision for people relationship in the company that guarantees the company a long term existence. Making the development of shared vision as a key element in daily work of leaders instead of notion that comes from the top positions can help in individuals attaining it. After individuals attain shared vision, the enrollment and commitment to the vision is necessary. The commitment of individuals enables to know the reality of the vision as well as the gap present between vision and reality. The commitment enables the individuals to work as a system to remove the gap. However, overcoming limits of Time and Energy are important in bridging the gap between vision and reality. Vision gives the picture and system thinking makes it a reality and tells about what an organization has regarding its reality. To make system thinking reality, team learning is important as it is the process of aligning the team and develops the capacity of a team and can be termed as a collective discipline for a learning organization. As a result, team learning can control or nullify the forces that are against the production activities. Dialogue is an important aspect in team learning and is possible when all the people behave as colleagues suspending their assumptions in the presence of a facilitator (Lecture note 8).

Thoughts and Reflections

Reflections (week 1-2)

Learning due to organizational flexibility can be termed as fifth discipline for organizations because the disciplines followed by such organizations are important to innovatively implement the ideas. In the above-mentioned context, the combination of technologies in DC-3 reminds me the concept of individuals having different perceptions to share their views for genuine vision that brings about a good corporate planning by continuous learning. In the absence of free flow of ideas between individuals of the organization, the collective efficiency decreases and to avoid that sharing and continuous learning, as well as effective implementation of corporate planning, is important. Hence, fifth discipline can be termed as integration as well as coordination between principles of individuals in an organization. Therefore it can bring out efficient corporate planning as well as its implementation. Hence, it is necessary for the management to avoid reactive as well as individual approaches and develop a shared vision for the corporate planning and implementation (Lecture note, (week 1-2)).

Reflections (week 4-5)

Hence, I opine that the teams of learning organizations need not think about short term benefits as it may affect long term goals as well as the growth of the company. As part of the team, instead of working on short term benefits and breaking the problems into pieces to assign the assignments to individuals, I emphasize on the importance for teamwork on a task by knowing cause and effect. Instead of seeing threat from outside, collective thinking is important to plan and complete tasks to ensure growth and benefits for organization. Hence, it is important for the individuals in organization to think as a system that responds with perfect solutions by not creating hindrances in future. Hence it is important for an organization to be dynamic by seeing the relationships instead of cause and effects as well as accepting changes instead of snapshots. In the above context, my opinion is that the structure causes the behavior. Hence, it is important for everybody to be responsible for the problems generated by system. Consequently, it is important to have reinforced system that multiplies the positive change; for example in sales. However, I stress the importance of coordinating, reinforcing and balancing processes to have change in a methodical manner. Hence, to coordinate reinforcing and balancing activities the primary activity I suggest is to remove the limitations for growth. Hence it is important to concentrate on fundamental solution instead of symptomatic solution and this demands continuous attention as well as shift of mind and processes to avoid periodic crises (Lecture note, (week 4-5)).

Reflections (week 6)

In the above-mentioned aspects, it is clear that the individuals of learning organizations should approach creativity to their life, but seeing reality in that context is important. Then the question of tackling the tension due to clear vision of adverse reality if it happens arises. Hence, it may result in individuals learning continuously to diffuse the tensions they face in reality. However, one can understand that the continuous learning brings out personal vision instead of personal mastery that is not tolerated by majority of organizations. Consequently, when vision comes to the fore, I think it is capable of making purposes of the organization to fulfill. In the above context, my opinion is that the goals may be ground down due to personal tensions even in the presence of personal mastery and personal vision may not help when reality is different from vision. Hence, it is important to change reality according to the vision. In the above-mentioned context, my opinion is that instead of personal mastery and vision, the thought of subconscious can work because it understands the gap between vision and reality. It seems to me that above all the interrelationship is the one that matters in building learning organizations because it is capable of overcoming blame and guilt. I feel that in interrelationship the mental modes are important as they are reasonable for perceptions of individuals about the world. As they are capable of even dominating systemic insights, according to me, it is important to communicate generalizations between individuals of the organization. Consequently, the leaders have to manage mental modes of the team at personal as well as interpersonal levels. In this context, it is better for managers to follow advocacy with inquiry to maximize the learning in organization (Lecture note week 6)).

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Reflections (week 8)

By following inquiry before advocating, it seems to me that the shared vision is possible. The reason for concentrating on shared vision is that it can change the individuals’ relationship with the company by encouraging the personal vision and transforming it to that of the company. However, I feel that it is necessary for individuals to change from personal vision to shared vision in the course of building a learning organization. In the above context, my opinion is that, the shared vision will reduce compliance and maximizes the commitment. Hence, it is necessary to have a shared vision and commitment, but I feel that managers are unable to enroll or commit a person. However, they are free to choose the person with a particular commitment for specific job. In addition to that team learning is necessary in the course of developing shared vision and commitment as it involves the mastering of pragmatic ways. Moreover, team learning makes the conflicts in the team productive instead of making them counterproductive as it generally happens in normal organizations (Lecture note (week 8)).

Field Book Exercises

Value of Dialogue Process

Dialogue is a process in the organization with which the conceptions and implementation activities are linked with. Hence, it cannot be viewed as a set of techniques but a process that makes people think together and is important in learning organization. According to Physicist Bohm, the dialogue is a tacit infrastructure of thought as it is capable of providing organizations the much necessary thought process. Hence, it can avoid fragmentation of thought in the company and enhances the capacity of the team. In this context, Bohm describes dialogue as a cool inquiry that enables flow of thoughts without collision. The above aspect is due to group’s shared attention that cools the tempers and avoids collision of thoughts. The individuals of wide range of tacit unexpressed intentions have to recognize the group or team as an entity and thus understand each other. This understanding can be termed as the first crisis, confronted by dialogue and if this is passed, the process continues. After this, facilitator should avoid the oscillation between views and decisions. This results in inquiry within the group and results in creativity with diversified thoughts, which are consolidated with inquiry. The above-mentioned process can be observed in managers and labor representatives of GS technologies. However, one can understand the importance of dialogue by the bitter experiences of Huselton (manager) and John Cottrell (Union leader) by not having a dialogue in the form of negotiations. However, the dialogue is possible when all the people in a group feel as colleagues and treat each other equally. Even the experiences of Phil Yanthzi a person who learnt from Bill Isaacs a senior lecturer in MIT, told that Bill never boasted about his educational credentials and behaved as the one between them while teaching (Senge Peter M, Art Kleiner, Charlotte Roberts, Richard B. Ross, Bryan J. Smith. 1994, pp. 357-381).

A Learning Organization That shows a Difference

The individuals’ perceptions and thoughts make a learning organization to be different from other normal organizations in which the employees work on the duty basis. However, the individuals in a learning organization think that their activities matter to them personally as well as the world. Moreover, they act as a system instead of individuals and are bind to dialogue process for execution of each program to develop a shared vision. They work as a team and the IQ of team was more than the average IQ of the individuals of the team thus extracting the potential of the individuals to their best. As a result, the vision is not only the duty of top management. Instead of it, top management encourages individuals’ visions and transforms them as shared vision and tries to reduce the gap between vision and reality. Instead of hierarchical perceptions, due to dialogue process and commitment, people treat others as colleagues, which is the essence of teamwork and team learning. Managers have to resort to inquiry instead of advocating the principles they want to make the employees a part of the decision making as well as execution. Instead of punishing the wrongdoers the team learns from their mistakes to avoid the bitter experiences due to ignorance if any in future. The foremost difference between traditional organization and a learning organization is the behavior of individuals in them. The next important aspect is that the lessened gap between vision and reality as well as encouragement for shared vision between employees. Hence, the employees are capable of avoiding bitter experiences and even learn from mistakes of other employees instead of punishing them. This enables the employees of an organization to act as a system instead of group of individuals (Senge, Peter M. et al. 1994, pp. 50-52).

Five Whys

Five ‘whys’ enable the employees of learning organization to know the root cause of the problem. Instead of adopting a symptomatic solution they try to find a fundamental solution that finds root cause and corrects it. When a thing is going wrong in an organization it is important to think about the reason for it by questioning. When we get some answers, it is important to find whether the same wrongs happen in other departments due to the cause found out by you. After getting the answer, the 2nd why is to think about the reason of such a wrong system exists in the organization by questioning it. The next ‘why’ answers the motive behind that decision. The fourth ‘why’ is the one that searches the possible solutions and the fifth why enables the group to find a possible solution as soon as possible. Five ‘whys’ system in a learning organization can be termed as an alternative system that searches for root cause and minimizes the negative consequences of cause and effect. Hence, the group in a learning organization needs to question the system that is cause for the problem instead of blaming individuals. In the course of blaming the individuals, the system can give punishment, but not a solution for a problem. If the root cause is known and eliminated, the need for punishment may not occur in future. Hence, in any dialogue process regarding a problem in the organization, five ‘why’s about the cause and system help the organization to work in a better way (Senge, Peter M. et al. 1994, pp.109-110).

System Sleuth

The first case in this exercise is ‘Clifford’ and the managers of the company took a right decision for the mistake of the competitor as it is inevitable at that price. Hence, they retained the lost revenues though they decreased on short term basis. However, this is due to the reputation and of the company for a long time and the cash balance with the company as it is operating for a long time and that aspect enabled the managers to remain tough even in the time of crisis, which is fabricated by low pricing competitors, who are not aware of the practical problems. However, the system thinking that interacted with the customers while offering service helped Clifford to know the limitations of the competitors as well as its own merits regarding the price and service. However, it is not the case of Burson-Benson power Tool Company as the company did not take into consideration the aspects that made the customers of the company being attracted to Japanese companies. The changed needs of the customers may be a reason for that and instead of inquiring the cause, the company is advocating the quality it has for its tools. Hence, in this context the advocacy instead of inquiry is taking place in the organization that prevents it to be learning one. It is important to inquire into the reasons for the customers being attracted to Japanese companies as well as the changing needs of the customers (Senge, Peter M. et al. 1994, pp.151-156).

Left Hand Column

The left hand column can be used as resource. It has been mentioned in step 4 of ‘The fifth Discipline Field Book’. The resources emerge from the thoughts of an individual who is not able to express them before his/her superior or team. However, the left hand column can be used to avoid the belief in powerlessness of an individual and to know his own abilities. If an individual is thinking in a wrong way or if he is doing wrong, the left hand column writings can reflect the causes that make him so. This happens because after filling the right hand column with his/her experiences in workplace and seniors, the left hand column brings out the person’s intentions as well as weaknesses in doing so and the strengths that are necessary to overcome the problem. The next step is to think about the reasons that avoided using one’s own strengths and advantages while working. In addition to that the assumptions an individual develops in other people while interacting with them also come out while writing the left column or at least the person develops awareness of them. Hence, there is a chance to avoid the wrong assumptions in others in future as it has been done unintentionally in the past. However, it is important that one cannot make judgments in left hand column and should use it to analyze the way they work and to correct it if possible with one’s own strengths and correcting weaknesses. One can see if he is missing conversation with his colleagues and can find reasons for that as conversation leads to dialogue process, which can in turn develops shared vision (Senge, Peter M. et al. 1994, pp.246-250).

Organizational Gridlock

Breaking gridlock in an organization is one of the ways to make it a learning one as it results in making individuals to think a one system. Normally Gridlock occurs when individuals behave independently. Individuals’ independent behavior results in coordinating problems and the employees solve them with quick fixes. Hence to break gridlock it is important to identify quick fixes and then apply five ‘whys’ to find the reason and finally the systems thinking comes to the fore as necessity to break the gridlock. Moreover, the independent behavior of individuals without systems thinking may result in undesirable impacts on others and affects the way the system works. Hence, to break gridlock it is important to consider reinforcing processes that make the individuals to respond in a patterned manner instead of a system. This may result in using reinforcing process for quick fixes instead of using them for growth. Consequently it is important to have fundamental solutions to avoid using reinforcing processes as quick fixes for problems created due to gridlock and absence of systems thinking as well as shared vision. In this course of finding a fundamental solution the management may find the solution is a burden on organization, but that can be removed through interaction, systems thinking, dialogue process and shared vision. The fundamental solution is capable of identifying the thicker functional walls that impede the activities of the organization due to absence of shared vision and can remove them. By showing the willingness to communicate the management can remove the functional wall between it and employees and in turn employees also have to do the same to remove the functional walls between them (Senge, Peter M. et al. 1994, pp.169-172).

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List of References

Senge, Peter M, Art Kleiner, Charlotte Roberts, Richard B. Ross, Bryan J. Smith. 1994, The Fifth Discipline Field book: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization. New York, USA: Dpibleday.

Senge, Peter M. 1990. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York, USA: Dpibleday.

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