I’ve been planning for a book that I expect to release this year on the subject of creating quality professional learning communities. The subject has intrigued me for the past four years, and I simply can’t read enough about them. The first step to creating a professional learning community, a community in which everyone believes in developing their professional knowledge about any topic within a group of people, is to establish true transparency.
Transparency, as most of us understand it, is simply the ability to see through something. In this case, it refers to the leadership within the organization. Every stakeholder who has a vested interest in the organization should be able to see and understand the mechanism that the leaders use to make decisions, and why they make them. In this sense, nothing is held from the public’s eye. If there is not sufficient transparency within an organization, an atmosphere of distrust develops and the climate, and eventually the culture, becomes toxic. At that point, influence by the organization’s leadership cadre within the organization begins to die.
Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline1 offered a set of 5 disciplines that if incorporated within the organization, will assist with transparency, and create a culture in which professional learning communities fully thrive. The disciplines are as follows:
- Systems Thinking – This is looking at everything from a systems’ perspective.
- Personal Mastery – This is simply knowing the fundamentals of your job better than anyone.
- Mental Models – These are assumptions or mental images that influence understanding of the world in which we live, and how we take action.
- Building of a Shared Vision – Fostering a shared vision provides an environment where team members excel and learn because they have chosen to.
- Team Learning – Team members suspend their feelings in an effort to engage in a true dialogue with other team members. An atmosphere of genuine and sincere trust has been developed within the team. This is a process, and should be viewed as something that will take time to develop.
These five disciplines, if incorporated properly, will begin to challenge previously held assumptions regarding what and how people within organizations.
So, how are you changing the atmosphere within your organization? Which of these disciplines have you purposefully adapted to become a part of your culture? Are there ways that I can assist you with incorporating them? Send me your thoughts!
1Senge, P. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. (Revised ed.) New York, NY: Doubleday.