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Building Learning Organizations – Signature Assignment

Part I
Diagnosis of the current state of an organization using Senge’s learning disabilities and system archetypes
This part provides a diagnosis of the current state of McDonald’s using Senge’s learning disabilities and system archetypes. This diagnosis is provided with a focus on the organizational setting of the corporation to describe things which are happening presently and which are challenging. It attempts to pinpoint situations where one or more learning disabilities and systems archetypes can be clearly seen.
The illusion of taking charge
The illusion of taking charge involves acting pro-actively, but it is only reactiveness in disguise (Eisenberg et al, 2002). There is a case where McDonald’s may be said to act in disguise for its own strategic good. Consider the company’s support for kids with life threatening conditions. One can argue that the company has a misplaced focus. In other words, the company focuses on supporting these sick kids instead of trying to deal with what causes the sicknesses. For instance, the corporation’s diet has been associated with many health complications such as obesity, asthma, mad cow disease (possibly), and heart diseases (Cahill, 2012). The company focuses on trying to help children with life threatening diseases and promote a healthy diet. However, the best way to help this situation would be to change its menu offerings and get rid of the greasy foods which cause some of the common life threatening health problems. It is clear that the company is not in charge of the situation. For instance, a study has shown that a good percentage of children’s hospitals and clinics has fast-food restaurants adjacent to them, if not within their premises.
This disability is also apparent when it comes to the corporation’s super-hyped green campaign. The company claims to have gone green; something that every organization in the contemporary business world ought to embrace to succeed (Cahill, 2012). One who understands the relevance and importance of the “going green” goal would wonder whether the company is in charge. Environmentalists and other experts have argued that the company will never be green provided that it uses meat products. Cows are responsible for methane and other greenhouse gases, with the meat industry being a major contributing factor to climate change and deforestation. When it comes to sourcing its products, McDonald’s gets, for instance, its meat from different countries. The use of food from far and diverse places raises many environmental concerns. The transportation processes involve carbon-intensive trucks, planes and ships. However, the move to set up electric car charging stations and a few green buildings gives the illusion of being a green company.
Limits to Growth
“Limits to growth” is where a system reaches its peak and then starts to decrease. This situation attributed to limits either internal or external to the system. Clearly, the fast-food industry is approaching the peak of the burger business. It has reached a point where it is not easy for McDonald’s to keep on making it tasty burger and fries (Eisenberg et al, 2002). The company has millions of customers who are all expecting to continue eating the cow meat. In order to remain profitable, the company ought to continue to support its demand. However, this may be a very difficult objective to meet because of the increasing scarcity of important inputs such as land and cow meat. The world continues to develop, and the population has increased rapidly. The consumption rates for meat are increasing as well as the prices for the same. In order for this corporation to address this issue, it will have to look for alternative inputs and other strategies to adapt to the changing market situation (Cahill, 2012). It is highly likely that marginal costs may increase as the inputs are land intensive. McDonald’s may have to look for other new ways and places to grow food for rear cattle. The resultant marginal cost increase may lead to a profit decline for the company in the future.
Eroding Goals
Eroding goals are where an organization seems short-sighted by focusing on short term goals which in turn impact the long-term goals. Therefore, while the immediate goals thrive, the long-term one starts to decline significantly. McDonald’s promotes itself as a seller of healthy and nutritious foods (Eisenberg et al, 2002). This is one of the long-term goals of the company to promote healthy eating habits among its customers. However, the company has incorporated other plans in its marketing strategy which have in turn affected the company’s goal to ensure healthy foods. Many have criticized the company for selling junk food, which is high in salt, sugar and fat, and low in vitamins and fibre (Cahill, 2012). Such a diet possesses some huge health risks such as cancer, diabetes, and heart diseases among others. Most importantly, McDonald’s has always tried to differentiate itself in the fast food industry. Also, it has also strived to ensure product uniformity so as to develop a strong brand which is easily recognizable by the company. However, the “eat local” campaign has obstructed this goal by incorporating local foods in its menu.
Part II
Articulation of a plan for applying Senge’s five disciplines to address the organizational challenge described in Part I using the five disciplines
This part articulates a plan for applying the five disciplines as suggested by Senge to address the organizational challenges described in part one. It relies on the five disciplines to help in moving the organization to success. It includes various activities, which can drive the organization to the desired state as a learning organization (Jones & Thompson, 2007). As clearly shown above, McDonald’s has had its share of problems which have had some impacts on the corporation. Many organizations have progressed to become learning organizations. In order for McDonald’s to succeed as well, it has to practice the Senge’s disciplines and develop a culture embracing all of them. The current global context has changed completely, and these disciplines are more important to the company now more than before as a lot has changed now. For instance, work attitudes have changed considerably. Employees are looking for more control and flexibility when it comes to what they do and how they do it. The global context involves having to overcome challenges such as economic and cultural barriers as well as developing products, which meet the customer expectations. McDonald’s has to understand the significance of these five disciplines because sticking by them with rigor will guarantee success (Wallace, 2007). Whether the company agrees or not, the disciplines are relevant and important to the success.
Personal mastery
Personal mastery is a discipline which entails constant clarification and expansion of personal vision, energy focus, patience development, and developing an objective view of reality (Van, 2008). This implies that an individual has the persistence, motivation and commitment to build knowledge and capabilities in various situations. It helps develop a high proficiency as one becomes aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, one is in a position to achieve his life targets which matter to him/her. Lifelong learning via the discipline of personal mastery begins with having to clarify what matters the most to a person in achieving life aspirations. According to Wallace (2007), this discipline offers a link between individual learning and organizational learning. McDonald’s should realize that supporting personal mastery is very important in overall organizational development. If employees of the fast-food retailer are committed to self-development, then they are likely to enhance organizational learning in a number of ways. In a nutshell, personal mastery provides a clear view of personal vision and current reality. This creates a tension which brings the personal vision closer to reality.
Mental models
“Mental models” refers to innate generalizations, assumptions and mental images which influence how one sees and understands the world and the choices made (Van, 2008). People view the world differently, either consciously or unconsciously, with lenses subject to prejudice and biases. Integral parts of mental models, which increase their power, include experiences, culture, values and other factors. They play a critical role in shaping people’s understanding of themselves, the society and the many situations they face. They influence the actions, choices and decisions happening from time to time. In that case, an individual’s mental model and those of others ought to be considered and brought to the surface (Sadler, 2003). In this regard, bringing them to the surface allows for review, scrutiny and criticism. The dialogues will come in handy where McDonald’s can allow its members to expose their thoughts and open them for influence from others. In this discipline, reflection is a crucial factor where McDonald’s has to decrease the speed of the thinking process of members so as to allow them to recognize how their mental models are built. On top of that, it should allow conversation between the members where personal visions may be shared openly. Open sharing allows people to learn from others and come up with a more convenient solution.
Team learning
This discipline entails committing to the following disciplines: mental models, shared vision and personal mastery. This occurs within a context of unified and proficient teams working together to achieve common goals (Van, 2008). A study has shown that teams are systems which only operate much better whenever they develop the following: a strong understanding, effective communication, and sound relationship between team members. In this regard, McDonald’s should make efforts to learn how to tell interaction patterns, which undermine the learning capabilities of its teams. Most important to remember is the fact that the teams tend to be defensive in accepting change. This means that recognizing the patterns can speed up learning while non-recognition can undermine it.
Shared vision
One idea that greatly inspires success in organizations is the ability to have shared pictures of the future (Sadler, 2003). It involves having some values, mission, and goals which are profoundly shared within the entire organization. The existence of a shared vision ensures that people in a system or an organization like McDonald’s learn and progress not because it is a requirement but because they are eager to learn. Shared vision will entail having the people associated with McDonald’s work together as a group for common goals rather than individually. All the people in the corporation ought to have and share similar goals, objectives and values. If there is no shared vision, McDonald’s employees can end up imposing different mental models and values which go against what is appropriate or harmful. Most importantly, people do not have to feel as if they are being forced to do things or take the stipulated path. In order to succeed, McDonald’s should ensure that personal visions of, for example, influential leaders do not prevail and prevent shared visions. This discipline will allow the company to translate individual visions into a universally accepted vision or a shared vision (Van, 2008). This ought to be done at all times, not only when there is trouble. Clearly, a shared vision is core to running a successful McDonald’s. A true vision makes employees want to produce and learn at their best while working under well-defined principles and directive lines developed from well translated individual visions.
Systems thinking
Systems thinking is a very important discipline which McDonald’s can benefit from. It integrates all disciplines and fuses them together to become a coherent system (Sadler, 2003). This is very important because McDonald’s, like any other business, is a system which consists of several actions and processes which are interdependent. It enhances all the other disciplines and shows that greater success comes when working as a whole as opposed to when each subcomponent acts independently. In order for McDonald’s to take control and eradicate problems, it has been taken as a whole because every part is dependent on another. This is to mean that McDonalds should understand that production, finance, marketing, customer care, and other business functions are interdependent and ought to be addressed as constituents of a single unified system. Having this in mind helps decide how to approach changes implementation in the best way. Ignoring this discipline cause problems to recur as the management wonders what is wrong.
Part III
Key lessons learned in this class
Exploration into personal mastery offers several lessons, which can help an individual achieve his or her lifelong goals (DeGrosky, 2012). Furthermore, it can help improve role effectiveness in the context of the organization with which a person is associated. First, it is clear that self-mastery is a special degree of proficiency which people ought to have. In this case, high personal mastery levels allow people to realize their goals in a more convenient manner. High self-mastery gives one the ability to know how to prevail in all life situations and move progressively towards their goals. Achieving the goals requires individuals to establish their purpose then move towards achieving them. This discipline is very broad, and it covers many aspects of one’s life including both professional and personal lives. A good self-mastery plan involves working on most of these areas, and one can even opt to focus on several of them at once.
In addition, what can be learnt from the exploration is the fact that personal mastery requires hard work, commitment, and time (Wallace, 2007). However, the likely outcomes of high personal mastery prove that it is worth the effort. The path to complete personal mastery is full of many enduring challenges. Personal mastery assessments have revealed that many leaders are deficient. Organizations are full of many leaders who are at the peak of their careers but have not yet mastered themselves. According to the self – mastery theory, this poorly portrays what constitutes ideal leaders. It also has negative impacts of the organization and teams. On top of that, it also underscores the importance of maintaining a direct link between leadership development, organizational learning and team learning.
There are several areas and aspects of self-mastery which a person must focus on. The discipline is established on several important principles which include: a personal vision, goals and purpose; having a creative tension between the current reality if things and the vision; alleviating the influence of deeply ingrained views, which contradict personal mastery; committing to the truth, and understanding the subconscious (DeGrosky, 2012). First, exploration into this very important discipline reveals that the first step towards achieving personal mastery involves goals. This is to say that a person should   first envision how he/she wants his/her life to be. This involves setting objective in life, both short- and long-term objectives. The lesson learned is that having clear and well-defined goals allows one to approach the objectives confidently. People without life goals lack values which are crucial to a successful life. Such people do not know what it is that they want in life.
Second, achieving personal mastery as well acquiring effective learning requires an objective, and honest scrutiny of a person’s experience. Therefore, one ought to embrace both the negative and the positive experiences, which requires: total honesty with every experience and total self-examination. Third, emotions and attitude are very important in developing personal mastery. In leadership, people with strong self-mastery do not allow emotions to control them to control them. Instead, they make sure to control the emotions. In addition, they desist from blaming themselves things go wrong or do not go as planned. Self-sabotage is a something which puts off many people to prevent them from succeeding. This can be avoided by having positive thoughts, which are encouraging (Van, 2008). Ability to manage one’s emotions helps develop emotional intelligence where one has an awareness of the emotions and needs of other people.
Another very important aspect of self-mastery is the ability to exercise willpower. Many people without willpower set goals, but they do not go through with them. This failure is associated with a lot of shame and disappointment as people do not achieve what they have planned. On the other hand, people with a strong willpower succeed in meeting their goals. This very important value pushes them forward and motivates them to take action at all times, even when there is something pulling them back. It is held that once people in an organization succeed in learning, both learning organization and team learning flourish (Wallace, 2007). When it comes to leadership, competent leaders first learn how to influence themselves. This is to say that successful leaders have to be able to influence their interpersonal associations, their behavior and their lifestyles before they can succeed in influencing others. These are the kinds of leaders who lead by example and they tend to have developed high levels of personal mastery. Carrying out their responsibilities as leaders is eased by the fact that people are willing to buy into their ideas. Thus, they do not spend a lot of time stressing them.

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