Book review: “Our Iceberg is Melting”

John Kotter is a professor at Harvard Business School, specializing in leadership and change. Our Iceberg is Melting is a fable in the vein of Who Moved Our Cheese (whose author, Spencer Johnson, wrote the forward for Kotter’s book), meant to illustrate Kotter’s eight-steps of effective change in businesses.

Curious penguin Fred deduces that the iceberg on which his community of penguins live, is melting and in danger of breaking apart during the upcoming winter season. But what can he do about it? He’s not a scientific expert on ice melt, he is just observant. Why would any other penguins listen to him?

Penguin Fred confides in a trusted official who has the ear of the penguin Mayor. But still, there is the challenge of convincing the rest of the penguin population that there is a problem and a need to change, especially when there are penguins invested in the status quo, who do not want change.

Without giving away the entire plan, the basic idea is to continue to draw in those who see the need for change, give them tasks to enact the change, and let them be the ambassadors of the change.

One wonders: if Jor-El had read this book, Krypton still would have exploded, but perhaps there would have been more survivors and we would have been spared the incredibly boring first twenty minutes of Man of Steel.

At fewer than 150 pages, including several full-page penguin illustrations, Our Iceberg is Melting is a quick read (I read it in a single sitting over a Chipotle burrito). It shows that if you see the need for organizational change, whatever your role in your organization’s hierarchy, there is a role for you to play.

I joined my company just over a year ago, at about the time that we began talking about the need for significant differences in the way we operate. I came in with no preconceived prejudices, but many of my colleagues have had difficulty digesting what their new roles and responsibilities might include. Our Iceberg is Melting gave me some things to consider to aid some of my colleagues through the inevitable change.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

Kotter, John and Rathgeber, Holger. Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006. Print.


Agree? Disagree? I am interested in your thoughts and opinions! Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter and let me know, or leave a comment below.


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