Programme Intermediate Level: The CEO’s Table – Learning To Create Productive Team Conversations

The programme is custom-designed from Modules 3 and 4 of the STLDi programme.

#Scope of The SessionDate
1Why the five disciplines? Why not others?
What would happen for the organization should the five discipline comes were to come together in their practice as an organization? What happens when they do not?

Introduction to the framework of tools, practices and essence of the five disciplines of Learning Organizations: 
– The Three-legged stool
– Introducing the 60 tools of Learning Organization
– Structural Tension Model 
Group Work: Seeing Our World Together

Introducing the  Discipline of Mental Models 
#1 In the first study Arie de Geus did in his book, “The Living Company”, he discovers on average 90% of organizations do not survive their 40th birthday.

In a more recent study, Arie de Geus discovers that that average number of years has changed. What is the new number? Which year was the study conducted?

What is the longest surviving organization that you can find in your search?

What three things do you notice that had allowed these organizations to grow for as long as they have and to still continue doing so today?

Consider what these organizations have had to learn both as individuals, teams within it as well as an organizations so as to grow? What had allowed them to breathe life into their organization?

Articulate your thoughts on a one-page response stating your reasons clearly and post on the Google Drive shared folder, marked ‘Team Assignments‘. 

#2 The disciplines of mental models and team learning allow teams to create generative conversations? What distinct characteristics do these disciplines possess that allow such conversations to happen for the practitioners of the discipline?
2Review Definition
Exercise:  Mind Game – Death in the Desert
Introducing Ladder of Inference
#3 Mind Exercise #1

#4 Mind Exercise #2

#5 Mind Exercise #3

#6 Notice one experience of the ladder happening for you.
3Review and practice the Ladder of Inference
Role Play:  Urgent Files
#7 Practice the ladder

#8 Practice the ladder

#9 Practice the ladder

#10 Practice the ladder

#11 Deepen the lines of your role play.
4Introduction to Key Concepts of Organizational Defenses and Skillful Discussion:
Theory of Action
Espoused vs Theory-in-Use
#12 Notice one newspaper article that to you suggests both espooused theory and theory-in-use are at play. State your reasons.
5Defensive Routines
Skilled Unawareness
Skilled Incompetence
Designing Skillful discussion

6Practice in Skillful Discussion
Testing assumptions and inferences
Sharing all relevant information
Explain your reasoning and intent

7Focus on interests, not positions
Combining Advocacy and Inquiry
Jointly design next steps and ways to test disagreements

8Level and stages of dialogue
Designing a Dialogue Session
Understanding distinctions in the ways we learn and communicate
Case Discussion and Skills Practice
Exercises for deeper listening – Projector and Screen Exercise
Exercises on Balancing Advocacy and Inquiry
Shell’s Scenario Planning Exercise
Four-Player Model
Introduction to Human Dynamics

#20 Facilitation Design Practice
9Introducing  Discipline of Personal Mastery
Accessing that Mastery Exercise:  Chevreul’s Pendulum,
Peacock Feather exercise
Story of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  And why not since?
#21 Leraning to image and paint your personal vision.

#22 Postmark your personal vision to receive one year from the date.


  • There are two sessions for each day of the programme
  • I/S = Intersession works


  • Log into the zoom call 15 minutes before starting time. Test that your connections are working well with the team.
  • Each session is 3 hours long. The programme is ten sessions long.
  • Have one person be assigned to record each session of the programme, organize the recordings, label them appropriately and keep in a shared online folder for the group.
  • There be time allocation every hour for 5-10 minutes Q&A sessions. The trainer will do a check from time-to-time for ongoing clarity with the team.
  • Members are encouraged to drop individual or team questions at the following email address for further clarifications:
  • Build a shared google doc folder for posting and storing inter-session assignments by sessions numbers.
  • Sure, some housekeeping rules are here.


  1. Join a Learning Team
  2. Have one other partner or at most two persons as part of the team
  3. The team serves as a fall back position to clarify any aspect of the live session with each other that was not as clear for yourself or you had felt was not allowing you to see the thoughts, process or the information line-up for you as well as you had wished. We know, that we best learn when we also teach.
  4. It is however not a fall-back position for unattended sessions. Those would need to be completed to allow you to participate more fully as a Learning Partner.
  5. It is also the group with whom you may build clarity up on and to allow you to develop the first cuts of any inter-sessions works
  6. Encourage your partner and allow your partner to encourage your learning journey


  • Complete the assignments. Pace and reflect on them during the intersession.  Do what your time allows you.  The assignments are intended to make up for the hours you are not getting otherwise and to anchor key points of the sessions that will allow you to better remember the work as you deepen with the session.
  • My own journey with Systems Thinking is not consistent with practitioners, especially those, who have a background in engineering.  The discipline is not intended to be ‘technical’. Yet, it is what has allowed me to develop the onion and to work with large-scale systemic interventions for nations. All I am doing is sharing that process that has grown for me with you and your team.
  • And so now, for the most important point. Be prepared to face the unexpected as the programme and materials unfold or even realize afterwards that you had forgotten entire segments of the programme.  This work is counter-intuitive.  That is all you need to be prepared for at this stage.  Take it in your stride.  It will grow on you.  Try the fold-arm exercise.   If a presentation surprised you, and the reason is not presented or understood immediately, raise your discomfort with the discussion or lookout for reasons in the follow-up sessions.
  • At this stage you are not expected to determine the ways the work integrates with your current organization practices. Create the space (including time) and the willingness instead for you to deep dive with the work and when you emerge, you will be guided in taking the understanding you have gained, to your practices. When the understanding of the five disciplines happens and it becomes clear how the five really works together (not separately) well, you would begin to have a much clearer understanding of ways to apply them that would be of use for your organizations.
  • For beginning reading materials:  click here.  Read the definition of Systems Thinking.  Notice what the discipline is.  The session has started!

Reference: The Fifth Discipline, Chaps 1-8