Our Iceberg Is Melting

By By John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber
June 2010
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A few years ago Kenneth Blanchard released a book entitled “Who Moved My Cheese”. The book was a great fable about two mice. One thought his piece of cheese would last forever, and never bothered to go and explore and look for new cheese. The other mouse began exploring looking for new cheese, creating new opportunities.

Now comes a new fable, ‘Our Iceberg Is Melting’, written by John Kotter. In this book, one of the penguins observes that the iceberg that his colony is living on is melting. He must use a vast array of tools to convince the town elders, the critics, the masses and doomsayers that the iceberg is melting and that new options need to be explored.

All of the characters in the book, Fred, Ann, Nono, Louis, Jordan, are all based on real life characters. Many of them you will quickly recognize from your workplace and day-to-day life.

Knowing that he will need the support of everyone in the community, Fred gathers together a select group of penguins each with different problem solving skills. Kotter infuses his 8 principles of problem solving in this story. Faced with certain tragedy, Kotter shows how the penguins, identified the problem, created urgency, developed a team-building structure and stepped outside the box.

The book is very short (147pages), and takes only a couple hours to read, you will feel energized after reading the book and ready to make some changes in your life and the way that you communicate with others.

There are several reasons for loving it:

The quick-read format provides convenience for readers coping with today’s chaotic time challenges.
The use of the ever-popular fable to influence behaviour.
The gift of wisdom, strategies, and tools to cope with real-world challenges in the work place.

For these reasons, you can expect to continue to see these classics emerge, entertain and educate as long as there are gifted writers to convey these critical lessons.

This particular fable comes to us from two gentlemen who know of what they speak. John Kotter is a leadership and change guru at Harvard Business School who has authored 11 business bestsellers, and Holger Rathgeber is a highly respected modern global manager.

Our Iceberg Is Melting presents a framework for an effective corporate change initiative through the tale of a colony of Antarctic penguins facing the danger of global warming. This colony of penguins will remind you of your typical business organization as they take on the personality traits and demonstrate the leadership skills of many of the characters we work with on a regular basis.

The central character is a particularly astute middle management Emperor Penguin named Fred who has identified a major challenge in the reality that the iceberg they call home is melting. His first obstacle is to convince everyone that there is a problem which must be dealt with.

Fred experiences frustration in having to deal with No No, the penguin who resists change, actively and passively. No No, of course, represents those many people in any organization who are basic blockers to change. Other recognizable personalities include: the naysayers and nitpickers, the innovators and agitators, the leaders and followers.

The idea is that everyone in a group must play a role in navigating change. Fred must convince his colony’s Leadership Council that his research has discovered that if they don’t move to another iceberg soon they will suffer disaster beyond their comprehension.

They must implement a thoughtful plan for leading their fellow penguins in the colony through a time of necessary but gut-wrenching change. They quickly discover that the central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems. Although each of these elements is important … the core of the matter is always about changing behaviours of those involved.

This is where we are introduced to the “The Eight Step Process of Successful Change.” The following chapters explain the critical flow of a successful change effort as we witness the colony discover that change is a never-ending process rather than an ultimate destination.

We, too, must realize that we continue to face many changes such as sales, technology, global competition, profits, retention, customer service, market share, etc. Desirable change is an on-going, never-ending process which demands one requirement above all others: adapt or perish.

This book is a must read for everyone who manages people at any level and recognizes the challenges involved with that responsibility. The eight-step change process is profound and can be applied to any organizational change effort.

Fred the main character discovers a problem that will destroy the lives of thousands in the penguin colony, if not the entire colony. But, he doesn’t have a position in the colony to be heard by the Leadership Council or the reputation to request time to speak at the town meeting, if he did, he probably wouldn’t be taken seriously. Fred knew within his penguin heart that the problem would be a major catastrophe but worried how to get the Leadership Council to listen and to buy into the problem without making a fool of himself and ruin his no profile reputation.
After all, the penguin colony is a close-knit colony. And, having a vision to see a problem that no other penguin sees would make Fred the newest laughing stock of the colony.

This adult cartoon illustrated book is an easy read and uses the power of networking and teambuilding to save and eventually grow the colony beyond every penguin’s imagination.

Fred gains the help of fellow penguins Alice, Louis, and Buddy his first support and cheering squad of penguins. Although, Fred the visionary penguin who discovered this disastrous problem could only highlight the problem and provide the proof needed to show the threat is real. But, he lack the solution needed to help the colony, which he understood.

So, after gaining the attention of the Leadership Council along with its naysayers, the problem becomes a colony crisis.

It becomes the responsibility of the Leadership Council to protect the colony penguins and provide for its growth and success under this urgent situation, especially for the young.

Our Iceberg Is Melting does a unique job of showing that most problems be it personal or business under any condition can be solved with the right strategy in place and when it is properly supported by those in the positions to effect positive change and can make it happen.

This book is great for managers finding it difficult to effect change at any level with their staff. It is also for the staff member who can’t understand how and why change takes place in corporate organizations expected and unexpectedly.

This book provides a quick lesson in change management for any business professional. The book is avsilable at Book Den in Windhoek.PF