What’s “Our Iceberg Is Melting” About?
In this “Our Iceberg Is Melting” book review, we learn Kotter’s 8 Steps by following the story of an observant penguin named Fred who stumbles upon evidence that the iceberg his clan calls home is melting (global warming, anyone?). This clan is very well managed, and the iceberg has been their home for as long as they could remember.
Fred knows that he needs to not only act on this imminent doom, but also needs to convince the clan’s leaders that this is really happening. Fred recalls Harold, another observant penguin, who failed to rally support behind a similar claim. After that incident, Harold was never treated the same. Change was shot down (“Who Killed Change?“).
The story follows Fred in his strategy to build leadership support, and make organizational changes to avoid a doomsday scenario for his clan. For penguins, this means proving that the iceberg is really melting, figuring out if it can be fixed, and preparing to move if necessary.
Can Fred really convince the whole clan that their vast block of ice is deteriorating from the inside out?
Why do I Recommend “Our Iceberg Is Melting”?
Leading change in a large company is a risky move. Especially among young, ambitious professionals. How many times have you foreseen a bleak future only to get shot down by bureaucratic denial (“That’s not how we do it here!“)?
This parable does a great job of illustrating the deep political challenges (Check out the engineers guide to politics) that accompany anyone who assumes the role of “change champion”. It takes grit and savvy communications to challenge the paradigms of leadership. After that, there is a whole ‘nother dimension of acting on change. This is what Kotter’s 8 steps is all about.
What makes this book stand out for me is the clear illustration of strategic complacency. There are some industries and organizations that have seen great success for many years under the same business model. The same value proposition. Suddenly, the market changes. And leaders of the organization are blind to the new paradigm. We’ve seen Netflix wreck havoc on Blockbuster – a company that just couldn’t accept that their iceberg was melting and refused to do anything about it until it was way too late.
What are the Key Takeaways of Kotter’s 8 Steps?
- Follow Kotter’s 8 Steps to drive organizational change (read the book to find out what the steps are!)
- Finding alarming evidence is not enough on its own; driving change requires a campaign of tactical demonstrations, communications, and partnerships in order to convince leadership of a new reality
- Without partners, change mongering can lead others to question your motives, methods, and even sanity
- With controversial topics, showing is better than saying. Models, illustrations, analogies, and experiments often resonate deeper than detailed presentations or reports (“Shortcut” does a great job illustrating this).
- A richly diverse “task force” taking inspiration from unrelated things (seagulls in the penguin’s case) can be one of the most effective ways to strategize around a new paradigm
“Your observations are fascinating Harold. But they can be interpreted in four different ways. You see, if one makes the assumption…” — Page 11
“But Alice was insistent, reminding her boss that they had to take some risks, “which you have bravely done all your life.” That was true, more or less, and Louis was flattered to hear Alice say so (even though her motives were pretty obvious).” — Page 21
““I have regularly reported to this group about my observations of the climate and its effect on our iceberg,” he said. “As I have told you before, periods of melting during warm summers are common. During winter, everything returns to normal. What he saw, or thinks he saw, is nothing new. There is no reason to worry! Our iceberg is solid and strong, and can withstand such fluctuations!”” — Page 28
“The Professor and Buddy were not totally convinced that what was appropriate for seagulls could possibly be right for penguins. “We’re different.” “They fly”. “We eat delicious fresh fish.” “They seem to eat, well…yuck.” “Of course we’re different,” Alice said…”That means we can’t just copy them. But the idea is very interesting…” — Page 66
“Still, parents felt a bit awkward. “You don’t share food, except with your children” was a very, very old and established tradition. So the inspired youngsters made it clear that they would be extremely embarrassed unless (1) their parents came to Heroes Day, and (2) each mother and father brought two fish as the cost of admission.” — Page 103
Who Should Read “Our Iceberg Is Melting”?
This is a great, quick read for anyone interested in fostering organizational change. Its especially useful for people who work in mature organizations facing disruption.
If the ice under your feet is getting a little thinner, learn how to convince leadership that “Our Iceberg Is Melting“.
Already read it? Share your thoughts in the comments section!