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A Learning Organization Born in the Crucible of Combat: The 3rd Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division, in World War I

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Technical Report

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US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth United States

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An examination of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division, American Expeditionary Forces, tells a story of a learning organization that emerges from the crucible of combat of World War I in 1918. The model of a learning organization used in this study originated from Dr. Peter M. Senges seminal work, The Fifth Discipline The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. The skillful practice of personal mastery, challenging mental models, creating a shared vision, fostering team learning and developing a systems thinking process are key for a learning organization to be successful in a challenging environment. When all five disciplines are actively practiced, they create an environment for a true learning organization to emerge. Though not initially displaying the traits of a learning organization, the 3rd Infantry Brigade ultimately learns and practices the disciplines during its last three months of warfare in 1918. The attack at Vaux, the Battle of Soissons, the St. Mihiel Offensive and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive highlight the brigades journey of becoming a true learning organization. In the end, the 3rd Infantry Brigade demonstrated personal mastery of warfighting skills, challenged the status quo of their doctrine, displayed a shared vision for their future, learned as a cohesive team, and ultimately made the necessary system changes to succeed in World War I.

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