Feb 092011


Our Iceberg Is Melting is a short and cute book discussing a serious adult topic. It was lent to me by one of my employees, which made me interested in reading it. The book by change management experts John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber is a fast and easy read and features several adorable illustrations depicting penguins and their habitat. Our Iceberg Is Melting, likely picking up on the theme of Climate Chaos and the recent penguin-themed films, creates a fable of penguins and habitat change to parlay a story about change, how to manage it, deal with it and get groups to adapt and adopt it.

One of the best-known books regarding change is undoubtedly Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. That book was also a succinct read wrapped in the coat of a fable and so comparisons would be logical – even if Johnson had not penned the introduction to this book. Unfortunately, while understanding and being sensitive to the theme and the importance of the topic, I was not a fan of Who Moved My Cheese and the same could be said regarding Our Iceberg…

The author attempts to enamour us and simplify the topic by picking a fable and using lovable penguins to boot, but lost in the shuffle is whether a change was necessary in the first place. No proof is offered. One needs to beware and watch for ‘change’ being used as a crutch and as an excuse for lack of willingness to address issues or drill into problems and challenges. More honestly in this regard would benefit most corporations and entities. Taking for granted that a change was indeed a necessity it is unclear why moving to another iceberg would mean a move to a better environment. Could the new iceberg be undergoing the same change and, therefore, the same problems? Moreover, could the birds be fleeing their problems in lieu of facing and repairing them?

The authors’ allegories and paradigm might well stand, yet a blanket pro-change statement, without examining need or necessity in the first place, is partly what ails many an organization and is unfair to the reader who is told to stop resisting change or else… and no justification is required. Indeed, the author insinuates that a resistance to change or demanding empirical evidence make one a “NoNo.”

Nevertheless, Kotter and Rathgeber offer the following process for enacting change. This seems simplistic, but essentially rational, although, never mind the propaganda effect of posters, signs and visual cues, alongside the need to sidestep and replace opposing views, which the authors advocate.

The process is:

1- Create A Sense Of Urgency (act immediately)
2- Pull Together The Guiding Team (leadership skills and credibility required)
3- Develop The Change Vision And Strategy (contrast the future with the past)
4- Communicate For Understanding (convey the vision)
5- Empower Others To Act (help those who are onboard)
6- Produce Short-Term Wins (an immediate win, no matter how small, is helpful)
7- Don’t Let Up (accelerate the momentum and push hard)
8- Create A New Culture (the new ways need reinforcement for a while).

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