In the book Our Iceberg Is Melting, Harvard professor John Kotter and co-author Holger Rathgeber tell the story of a colony of penguins who are facing change. The story is written in fable format similar to Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson.
An astute penguin named Fred observes that the iceberg the colony lives on is melting and that they will face potential disaster if it breaks apart in the middle of winter. He proceeds to present his findings to Alice, a member of the leadership council. Once the need for action is realized, there is no small amount of squabbling amongst the council as to next steps.
They eventually determine to let the rest of the colony know of the great risks and solicit ideas for solutions. After arriving at a creative solution through interactions with a seagull, they implement a migratory initiative to seek out new icebergs. The change is not without detractors who question the findings and argue for maintaining the status quo without addressing the risks of the melting iceberg. However, through strong leadership of the head penguin and a small action team, the penguins drove efforts to eventually relocate to a safer home.
The story has multiple examples of personalities seen commonly in organizations. There are those who are interested in arguing for the sake of arguing, the cautious, the hard driving but consensus building leaders, the creative but sometimes ignored penguins, the naysayers, those being academic in mindset but who ask tough questions, and those who just want everyone to be happy, among others.
Kotter and Rathgeber use the story to demonstrate an eight step process of successful change which includes:
1. Create a Sense of Urgency
2. Pull Together a Guiding Team
3. Develop the Change Vision and Strategy
4. Communicate for Understanding and Buy In
5. Empower Others to Act
6. Produce Short-term Wins
7. Don't Let Up
8. Make It Stick
The book is fun, has great change management principles, and can be read in no more than an hour or so. While change for change's sake is not necessarily wise, for those in any organization facing challenges, this book provides easy to understand concepts for managing change.
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