A CEO shares what he learned from reading 'The Fifth Discipline'.
CEO: Paul Eldrenkamp, founder of Byggmeister, a Massachusetts-based remodeler of residential properties, and the only person we know who has actually read The Fifth Discipline from cover to cover
BOOKS: The Fifth Discipline, by Peter Senge (Currency/Doubleday, 1994, $18.50) and The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization, by Peter Senge, Charlotte Roberts, Richard B. Ross, Bryan J. Smith, and Art Kleiner (Currency/Doubleday, 1994, $29.95)
"These two books have been very useful to me in several crucial areas. One is 'personal mastery' -- changing behavior for the better by setting small goals and meeting them. Another is what's referred to as 'closing the feedback loop.' I now go back and visit all my old remodeling jobs to find out what people like and don't like about the work once they've had a chance to live with the changes for a while. I do no selling, and yet former customers now account for about 80% of my new business. I also learned to look at the concept of 'leverage' differently. The books taught me that if I wanted to leverage my company, I had to leverage my time. As a result I now spend more time with subcontractors, who today are much more likely to come through for me when I'm in a bind.
"I know people find The Fifth Discipline a bit abstract, but you have to keep in mind that I majored in medieval philosophy and theology in college. A typical assignment was to read a 40-page tract in the original medieval Latin on whether God could restore virginity to a woman. After that, Peter Senge reads like a potboiler. By the way, the tract's conclusion was that God could indeed restore a woman's virginity if he wanted to, but he doesn't want to."