Why an organization should empower its members with personal mastery?
The Fift Discipline
The book called the Fifth Discipline describes the five disciplines a learning organization utilizes and needs in order to maintain itself as a learning organization. According to the author Peter Senge, these five disciplines are systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, building shared vision and team learning. (Senge 2006, 6-9)
All of these five disciplines are required together to create an organization that can truly learn – each of these components is a vital part of the creation of a learning organization. If one of these disciplines was missing, the others could not be utilized to their full potential and then the organization would not be truly learning. (Senge 2006, 6-9)
In this essay, I will be focusing on the second discipline of the learning organization on Senge’s list: personal mastery. From the organization’s point of view all of the five disciplines are equally important and they need each other to work to their full potential, but I decided to take a more personal point of view and focus on the discipline of personal mastery. After all, I believe that an organization cannot be any better than the individuals creating it are.
Senge explains personal mastery as proficiency over every aspect of life, both personal and professional. More specifically, personal mastery is also proficiency over continuously clarifying and developing one’s personal vision, of concentrating one’s energies, of cultivating one’s patience, and of seeing reality objectively. (Senge 2006, 7 & 132) I understood personal mastery in the Fifth Discipline as it cannot be possessed or achieved – rather it is a process or a discipline to be put into practice. (Senge 2006, 132)
Personal mastery is the will and desire to constantly develop oneself, one’s vision and one’s purpose. Vision and purpose are key elements in the discipline of personal mastery. Without them, one would be perfectly happy and content with where they are at the moment and what they have at the moment and therefore would have absolutely no need to develop oneself, one’s vision or one’s purpose.
Purpose is a more general direction of what one wants their life to go towards and vision is a clearer, more concrete goal incorporating that purpose (Senge 2006, 138). We all have a purpose we believe we are alive for and a vision of something more concrete and measurable. When the discipline of personal mastery is applied into our life, our purpose draws us further to achieve our vision and to create new visions when the previous vision has been achieved (Senge 2006, 139).
”It can truly be said that nothing happens until there is vision. But it is equally true that a vision with no underlying sense of purpose, no calling, is just a good idea”. Those are the two sentences from The Fifth Discipline that resonated with me the most. (Senge 2006, 138).
Yesterday was Workshop Night (or Pajojen Yö) and I participated in a workshop called “searching for meaning”. In the workshop, Hermanni Ahtiainen asked us, why did we get out of bed that morning. We all gave our different reasonings for getting out of bed, which, in most cases, were that we had a task to do or a place to be at. However, those are not real reasons to get out of bed in the morning.
If we dig a little bit deeper behind those tasks, such as going to work or having a project to do, we can see our visions. One’s vision behind the task of going to work could for example be buying a house of their own, for which they need money and therefore go to work for. Then, if we still dig a little bit deeper, the purpose behind this vision of owning a house could be having a family. The house then becomes a safe place to raise one’s children in.
During our mundane, everyday life, we do not think of our vision and purpose often enough. We do not dig deep enough. We do not clearly know our vision often enough. This means the lack of practicing the discipline of personal mastery. When personal mastery is applied and we are constantly clarifying and redefining our vision, we can achieve it more easily.
From an organization’s point of view, personal mastery of its members is important. As I said earlier, an organization is just as great as it members. In the Fifth Discipline, Senge also states: “An organization’s commitment to and capacity for learning can be no greater than that of its members” (Senge 2006, 7).
In addition to personal mastery, from the organization’s point of view, shared vision is important. If the members of the organization do not share a common vision, empowering people with personal mastery only increases stress of the management. Direction becomes vague. But when the members of the organization are people with high level of personal mastery and share a common vision, the direction is clear and the organization can learn and grow.
Senge, P. 2006. The Fifth Discipline. The Art & Practice of The Learning Organisation. 2nd edition. Great Britain: Random House Business Books.
Ahtiainen H. 2018. Workshop. Searching for meaning. 22.2.2018. Tampere: ProAkatemia.