Discuss the contributions of either Peter Senge or W. Edwards Deming to the field of management and their relevance to the Horizon’s case study.
This essay will examine the contribution of Peter Senge (born 1947) to the field of modern management and systems theory and his relevance to the Horizons Regional Council One Plan case study. Modern management theory is an extension of the concepts developed by the classical and humanistic theorists, taking a more holistic view of the organisation and the broader operating environment. Many elements within the Horizons Regional Council One Plan development process closely match disciplines identified by Senge, in particular his shared vision and systems thinking (Senge, 2006). A greater initial emphasis on the shared vision development could have assisted the Council to have more constructive engagement with stakeholders, reducing the need for time consuming and expensive litigation processes to resolve some issues.
The concepts developed by Peter Senge are based around systems theory which considers the interactions between parts of the organisation with a holistic view of the business, recognising that this approach creates opportunities for competitive advantage and organisational growth. Senge also recognised that businesses operate in unstable environments that are constantly evolving, thereby requiring a flexible organisation to successfully adapt to these changes. Senge is best known for his major theories of five distinct disciplines based on continuous organisational adaption and learning (Newbold & Pharoah, 2009), as recorded in The Fifth Discipline (Senge, 2006). The disciplines are personal mastery – proficiency, mental models – assumptions and generalisations which influence how we see the world and the organisation, building a shared vision – a set of principles and guiding practices, team learning – where the total capacity exceeds the sum of the individual parts and systems thinking – understanding the whole and patterns which exist. The management theories of Peter Senge are considered to be part of the modernist school of thinking, including the learning organisation approach (Samson, Catley, Cathro & Daft, 2012) as his ideas are based around a holistic view of the business and the organisational relationship to the influential factors of the eternal environment. Senge’s work built on earlier concepts by W. Edwards Deming (1900 – 1993) who was highly influential to the development of his thinking (Senge, 2006). This modern approach contrasts with classical management theorists working within scientific, bureaucratic and administrative frameworks such as Max Weber (1864 – 1920) and Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856 – 1915) who focused on theories of organisational efficiency with an emphasis on productivity. This approach had an internal organisational focus with little recognition of the external environment or employees. Following the classical theorists, humanistic management theorists including Mary Parker Follett (1868 – 1933), Chester I. Barnard (1886 – 1961) and G. Elton Mayo (1880 – 1949) were advocates for greater emphasis on people including human behaviours, worker needs and social connections. These theorists still focused on the organisation in isolation, with management theory not taking a broader view of the organisation and operating environment until the advent of the modern management theorists such as Senge.
The theories of Peter Senge, primarily his five disciplines (Senge, 2006) are relevant to Horizons Regional Council in that they outline the framework for building a successful organisation that is adaptable, sustainable and successful. In particular his emphasis on building a shared vision (Senge, 2006) is something which is very clear in the reason that Horizons Regional Council began the process of the One Plan unitary document. CEO Michael McCartney believes that One Plan