Friday, November 14, 2008

Our Iceberg is Melting - John P. Kotter, et. al

Subtitled: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions. This is a fable, much along the lines in form of "Who Moved My Cheese?" by authors Ken Blanchard and Spenser Johnson (Johnson is a contributing author here as well.)

This book was referenced in Kotter's A Sense of Urgency (previously reviewed here) and I can see why. It took me one hour to read it on an airplane. It rolls out the same concepts Kotter has introduced in previous works but in a much more digestible form.

The utility of this format is evident - it brings home the concept of change, even to those who would not consider themselves "readers." It provides a common vocabulary for vague concepts like "vision" and I think anyone can recognize the main characters as people they know. Or perhaps I am the only one, but I certainly recognized familiar figures in this tale.

As a general rule, people are not inclined to change what they do or how they live unless forced to. This book shows what happens when a penguin colony's very existence is threatened by what "might happen." Not a 100% I-can-prove-it inevitability but an observation rolled out into theory by a "junior" penguin with no status or credibility in the colony.

This too, is typical. Change is often initiated from some place other than the top of the organization chart, and this book illustrates how a wise leader pulls together a diverse group of 4 individuals to form a team. And it shows how a focused team rolls the vision out to everyone else and garners their support for the objective.

Can any organization accomplish the things outlined here? Absolutely. It helps to have strong leadership and an informed organization to lead. But no one's iceberg has to melt in order for change to take place in advance of a catastrophe.

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