Icebergs and Change Management


On a warm summer’s evening, have you ever noticed how the porch light–or any other outside light-attracts moths? They seem to swarm over them.

I really noticed that while deployed to Joint Task Force-Bravo in Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras. There was a light over the door to my hooch. The opening door disturbed them. A few would fly indoors. I learned to quickly go through the door at night. No moths inside meant there weren’t going to be any geckos either.They loved to eat the moths and waited not too far away from where the moths were.

I am the same way with book. I’m a book person. Piles of books attract me. I have to see them or inquire about them. During my in-processing with my new employer I noticed a pile of books. They were all one title: “Our Iceberg Is Melting” by John Kotter. The human resources person gave me a copy and said the company was reading. Everyone will discuss it later in the month.

The book is a fable about penguins facing the imminent loss of their iceberg home and what to do about it.

Why a fable? The author explains:

“Fables can be powerful because they take serious, confusing, and threatening subjects and make them clear and approachable. Fables can be memorable, unlike so much of the information that bombards us today and is forgotten tomorrow. They can stimulate thought, teach important lessons, and motivate anyone–young or old–to use those lessons. In our modern, high-tech world, we can easily forget this simple yet profound truth.”

Absolutely! Who hasn’t heard an Aesop fable in their lives and not remember aspects of the story and the moral?

Kotter uses the penguins in a fable setting to dramatize how his Eight Step Process of Successful Change takes place. It’s a fable about change management. Much more enjoyable reading that change management reading I had to do in the Air Force!

Several recent and not-so recent situations came to mind while I read this book (for example, climate change clarion calls–The New Ice Age in the late 1970s, El Niño in 1997, and Global Warming in the 2000s–health care and the federal debt). I could see certain people fulfilling the role of the various penguins. Who really are the penguin “No No” in the above-mentioned clarion calls? Who’s “No No”? Read the book. Politics will inevitably cloud the identification of “No No.”

In summary, Kotter’s Eight Step Process of Successful Change are:

1. Create a sense of urgency.

2. Pull together the 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. Create a new culture.

Do the penguins succeed? Well, read the book. Not just for the answer but read it for enlightenment.

After all, who doesn’t need more enlightenment?

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