Senge rose to international prominence in 1990 with the publication of his book The Fifth Discipline.

The themes of this book are in marked contrast to much of the received wisdom of 20th century management (founded on Taylor’s principles). For example, whereas we have been taught to break problems down and solve them piecemeal, Senge argues with great force that by so doing we run the risk of missing the significant interconnections between the parts and the whole. Far better to think and act in the knowledge that all our actions (in organisations) are interconnected and are capable of producing opposite effects from what intuition tells us to expect.

Senge calls this approach systems thinking and points to the needs for people to join together to form learning organisations as an anti-dote to the fragmented thinking typical of our hierarchical/functional organisation designs.

On the way to becoming a learning organisation Senge identifies five key processes. These are:

Personal mastery – a commitment to one’s own lifelong learning.

Mental models – turning the mirror on our own innermost beliefs and subjecting them to scrutiny by ourselves and others.

Building shared vision – striving with others to develop shared vision of the world we want to inhabit.

Team learning – sets out to realise the superior intelligence, learning and performance of which teams are capable.

Systems thinking – (The Fifth Discipline) – binds and integrates the others.