朝邦文教基金會 CP Yen Foundation

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12/2012對話訊息:《第五項修煉》的新瓶舊酒 / The Fifth Discipline: old wine in a new bottle

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《第五項修煉》的新瓶舊酒

《第五項修煉》在台灣的讀者群實在非常龐大,我至今仍未遇過一位中層主管沒有接觸過這個概念。學習型組織己經由一個所謂時尚口號,成為了一個植根民心的meme(一種己被傳播的思想概念)。同時我在與朝邦一起合辦的工作坊中,注意到參與者中對這個概念仍然是好奇不已。還記得 Jorie 有一次跟我說好像學習型組織有一種復活的機會。

《黑天鵝》作者最近提出一個新概念Anti-fragile-反脆弱,就是當一個(例如是概念)在遇到一些難關或災劫仍然不死,它的生命力會變得強韌起來,更有存活下去的機會。我假設學習型組織也有這種特性的話,我作為十八年的管理顧問工作者,而且是來自這一門、這一派,然後才到不同的領域不斷拜師學藝的學習型組織「過來人」,可以在現在說些什麼呢?

若然學習型組織已經有一種「不死身」的話,它的存活方式應該更像學習型組織的原意旨:它應該是一種理性而熟思、隱秘而不露眼的散播在我們每個人的管理思想與行動中。所以這一次來台灣分享 Revisiting The Fifth Discipline就是在這個事情上參一腳而已。

既是這樣,就得找一個與實務相關的議題來作開場白吧。就來個「收入 – 成本 = 利潤」!無疑,這條就是連小學生也會算的方程,可能是全管理學上最為重要,也同時是最被扭曲操作的方程式。那我們不如就由這裡開始吧。

首先,我們來談談利潤。單是什麼叫做利潤,我們已經可以談三天三夜。我在此提及的利潤不是會計學上的利潤。因為當你以公司的 balance sheet 上的「利潤」來看作為你管理的基礎,你很可能會做出很多只著重「短期利潤」的不良行為。因此我強調了在利潤的思維上,要具備 「10-10-10」的想法。管理行為,要顧及短期、中期以至長遠的永續發展。這是我對利潤作了一個簡單的強調。這樣說來,要短期間產生利潤並不是一件困難的事,但要組織能做到「今天未來 (now and in the future)」都同樣賺錢,那就不是一件簡單事了。

當面對著這條收入減成本等於利潤公式,我們除了要有長遠發展的思維外,我們還得要把持對「真相」的追求。當然,把持真相的最基本條件就是「誠實」,這固然是很重要。因為很多管理者在各種的條件限制下,會變得越來越「不誠實」。但不誠實並不一定是來自個人的基本價值觀出現什麼問題。那也可以是因為我們都雇用了一種「割裂性」的管理模式,從而誤導我們只關懷「局部真相(local optima)」,而非整體的真相。因此,五項修練中的「第五項」修練系統思維在創造組織的利潤上扮演著極重要的角色。十五年的顧問工作經驗,讓我看到若然我們學習系統思維,卻連不上剛剛我所指的釐清真相(弄清楚什麼才是真正的利潤)的動作,那是沒有學習到系統思維最重要,同時是最有價值的角色。

因此,我在現場問及很多朋友,什麼是系統思考。我聽到很多很棒的答案:是了解非線性的反饋關係、是看到事物之間的關係、是提升我們對「時間滯延」的敏感度、是模擬現實的一種展現,這些答案足以證明台灣朋友真的下過功夫。在這些標準答案面前,我多加一種看法:若然系統思維沒有幫助管理者看到他們「買錯理論」而導致一直集中在一些與長遠發展不一致(或與你個人價值觀不一致)的活動上時,系統思維基本上沒有做好它的工作。我們只會浪費了彼此的時間,我們只會對「東西是互相關聯的」而自爽不已。我們沒有創造價值。

因此我利用了一些時間,用了一個簡單的環路圖,與各位分享了這種思想方向。這是可以讓我們有一種「較為」整體的思路。我們仍不知今天的所謂有效,其實是不是另一次的短期效果,因此我們必須有反思的能力與對反思的實踐。然而,展開自己的「反思」是何其的不容易!但若然我們有一些一起反思的夥伴,那就很不一樣。我在台灣看到很多具有一定程度「反思實踐」的實踐社群,欠缺的是開創性對話的能力。「對話」若要能夠做到「開創性」一定是,必然是來自個人的修練。它絶不會在一堆未經訓練的人口中說出來的,有一次也沒有兩次,這是為何很多所謂咖啡館、自由談走不下去的原因。Facilitation是重要,同時也是不足夠。Facilitation是引動「團隊學習」及「共同願意」超棒的理論、方法、工具。但它不能取代個人修練開創性、反思式對話的能力。而且沒有這一塊,我們很容易地因為割裂式思維的習慣,又會買錯一堆管理實踐的方法與理論。因此我在分享會上說三腳凳就是關於「看清複雜 (understanding complexity)」及「開創性對話 (generative conversations)」之間的互動。

餘下來的,就是「創造的熱望 (aspiration)」。這也可能是所有個人學習背後的能量來源。沒有更大的願意,我們便會就範於組織環境中那種官僚、防衛、與低效,而顯然不自覺地隨波逐流,抽離個人對組織的正面影響力,活在一種「逃避痛苦」的負面願景之中。但對於創造的熱望,我們得需要了解它與一般的個人願景的分別在哪。

「我希望成為世界上最偉大的產品設計師」與「我希望能夠影響我的團隊有創造卓越的熱望」是很不同的個人理想。前者只要靠個人的努力便能成功,後者是關於「如何增加自己有認受性的影響力」。如果我們一直強調的是個人的願意創造,你可會知道有什麼事情會發生?就是一批又一批的人選擇離開令人沮喪的組織,去流浪、去旅行、去做藝術家、去當一家小生意,那種創造學習型組織的能量與能力只會持續下滑。那是一種選擇過著更小影響力的人生。然後就回到彼得聖吉的一句:組織現時最大的問題,並不是那些不願意改變的人,而是那些有能力的人選擇了一種避世的方式來渡過他/她的組織生活。

透過影響,我們可以感召更多人與你搭在同一條船上。關於以上的看法,我是沒有在分享日當天談到的。但我個人認為這個觀點是很重要的,也是我認為這一點在《第五項修練》中沒有說得很清楚。那即是說,有創造的熱望並不足夠。感召他人一起去做一些有意義的事情卻要求有另一套個人的修練與技巧方法。關於這一點,是來自一種內心深處的良知。這種良知往往都是超過個人,所看到要創造的願景也是超過個人能力所能達到的。換句話說,若然沒有團隊一起行動,那是不可能達成的。

註:《第五項修練》中所指的五項修練是系統思維(systems thinking)、心智模式(mental model)、自我超越(personal mastery)、共同願景(shared vision)和團隊學習(team learning)。彼得聖吉說,若然《第五項修練》有機會重新名命,他會叫它做「三腳凳」,相信是因為五項修練的說法容易讓人覺得是五項不同的東西。而三腳凳比較容易讓人想像到三者缺一不可,這也避免了人們繼續不停地問什麼是「第」五項修練。

主筆: 陳穎堅先生, Joey Chan, 博念學習型組織顧問公司創辦人.朝邦文教基金會國際合作夥伴.

 

The Fifth Discipline: old wine in a new bottle

The Fifth Discipline readership in Taiwan is very large; and to this day I have yet to meet a middle manager unfamiliar with these concepts.  Organizational learning has been a popular slogan for so long that it can be considered a social meme (a wide spread cultural concept); and yet, in the workshop co-organized with the CP Yen Foundation, I noticed the participants were still highly curious about organizational learning.  I recall Jorie Wu observing that organizational learning seems to be experiencing a renaissance!

“Anti-fragile” is a concept recently proposed in the book Black Swan to describe something that encounters difficulties but rather than dying, strengthens in vitality and gains enhanced capacities for survival.  If organizational learning has this anti-fragile quality, its survival capacities might be similar to organizational learning’s its original intention: to be a rational deliberation and an invisible dissemination into every individual’s management thoughts and actions.  In this workshop “Revisiting the Fifth Discipline”, we merely stepped into exploring these qualities.

The workshop opened with the topic “revenue – cost = profit” because although it is a simple equation, it may be the most important one for management, and is also the most frequently distorted equation as well.  We could spend three days and nights just talking about the meaning of profit.  But the profit I’m talking about is not the kind accountants learn about.  Because once profit is managed from the point of view of a balance sheet, one tends to make many bad decisions focused on short-term profits.  Therefore, when thinking about profit one should use the “10-10-10” concept and consider sustainable development in the short-, medium-, and long-term.  Short-term productive profit is not a difficult thing for an organization, but to be profitable both now and into the future is not a simple matter. 

In addition to having long-term thinking when working the revenue – cost = profit formula, one also needs to have a relentless pursuit of truth.  A basic condition for truth is of course honesty, which is extremely important because there are a plethora conditions in which managers would be incentivized to be dishonest.  Dishonesty however is not simply an individual’s lack of basic values, but is generated from a fragmented mode of management that misleads managers to care for only the partial truth (local optima) rather than the whole truth.  Therefore, from among the five disciplines, the fifth of systems thinking is extremely important for seeing a more holistic truth and therefore for creating organizational profit.  Fifteen years of consulting experience has taught me to recognize that even though we study systems thinking, the work of clarifying the truth, such as what is real profit, is the most important role of systems thinking.

I asked workshop participants “what is systems thinking?” and heard a lot of great answers such as, systems thinking is to: understand nonlinear feedback dynamics, see relationships between things, enhance sensitivity to delays, simulate and show reality.  These responses show that Taiwanese friends have a good understanding of systems thinking, but I would like to add a further perspective: if systems thinking fails to help managers see their own flawed thinking and to focus on long term development in alignment with one’s personal values, systems thinking basically did not do its job.  If we only see that things are interdependent, then we have not created value.

The causal loop diagram to the right is from Nelson Repenning and John Sterman's “Nobody Gets Credit for Fixing Problems that Never Happened” and shows an example of a comprehensive way of thinking.   Developing our reflective capacity is not easy, but it helps if we have a few reflection partners.

In Taiwan I’ve see a lot of communities of practice who have reflective practices but struggle with generative dialogue.  Facilitation is important because it offers awesome theories, methods, and tools for invoking group learning and common will, and yet is also not enough because it cannot replace individual creativity and reflective dialogue abilities.  The ability to do generative dialogue arises from one’s individual capacity.  Indeed, without facilitation our fragmented thinking habits will easily buy the wrong bunch of management practice methods and theories, which is why I share again the three-legged stool to show the dynamics between understanding complexity and generative conversations.

Aspiration is the remaining core capacity - it is the underlying energy source for all individual learning.  There is no greater willpower than aspiration as it enables one to transcend organizational bureaucracy, inefficiencies, group think and to escape from the pain of an organization’s negative vision.  The desire to create comes from our understanding of the difference between organizational and individual vision.  For example, the statements “I hope to become the world’s greatest product designer” and “I hope to enable my team to aspire for creative excellence” are very different personal ideals.  The former simply relies on individual effort to succeed and the latter is about increasing one’s impact.  If we only emphasized an individual’s aspiration to create, you know what will happen?  One after another will choose to leave the organization due to frustration, they will stray, travel, become an artist or a small business entrepreneur; that kind of learning organization will decline and have smaller impact.  

Through impact, we can appeal to more people to ride with you in the same boat.  I didn’t share these observations with the workshop participants, but I personally think this perspective is very important, and in my opinion it is not clearly expressed in "The Fifth Discipline". But having passion to create is also not enough.  Inspiring others to do something meaningful requires another set of individual disciplines that come from intuitive knowing of one’s heart.  This kind of knowing often transcends the individual’s ability to see and realize a vision.  In other words, it is impossible to achieve a vision without collective action.

Note: The five disciplines described in The Fifth Discipline are: systems thinking, systems thinking, mental models, self-transcendence personal mastery, shared vision and team learning. Peter Senge once commented that the biggest problem is not those who are unwilling to change, but those who have the ability but who choose avoidance to ride out his or her organizational life.  Peter mused that if The Fifth Discipline could be re-named, he would call it the "three-legged stool"; I believe that’s because it’s easy to misinterpret that there are five different disciplines, whereas with the three-legged stool it is easy to imagine that each of the three legs are indispensable, and moreover avoid the repeated question “What is the 5th discipline”?

Author: Joey Chan 陳穎堅, Founder of Birdview Learning Organization Consulting (博念學習型組織顧問公司) and collaborative partner with the CP Yen Foundation. 

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