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BOOK CLUB: Our Iceberg Is Melting, by John Kotter

by Phil Dourado February 14, 2008

It's not often that you see a man claimed by some to be the world's greatest expert on leadership sitting next to a penguin. Professor John Kotter is particularly famous for his Eight Step Change Framework for leading largescale change. There's a summarised version of the Eight Steps attached as a Word document if you are interested. Just click on the 'attachments' headline below the video clip. Kotter's previous books, such as The Heart of Change, explain how the eight steps work.

His newest book, Our Iceberg Is Melting, is an attempt to spread the word via penguins. It uses a fable to get people to understand how they refuse to accept the need for change and what to do about it. You can see how he and his co-author Holger Rathgeber are trying to break the message out from top management and write something that isn't a dense, academic, tough read. It's brave of him to try...I've been in two minds about this book, but have come down in favour of it. Kotter starts this clip by referring to it as 'silly'. And, as with Who Moved My Cheese, I read Iceberg and found it silly but interesting. I think it's because I don't like business fables, particularly ones featuring cutesy animals.

BUT, I've decided that's just my personal thing and I shouldn't let it influence what you think about this book or what Kotter is trying to do. After a week of thinking it over, I've come down in favour of thinking this book is a good idea. Partly because 'silly' is not necessarily a bad thing and we need more 'silly' or 'whimsical' and light (but serious) insights on leadership as the writing on leadership can be too inaccessible otherwise. Also because

a) the main agent of change in it is a middle manager, which helps move Kotter's Eight Step framework away from being read by some as too closely associated with 'top-down change' and

b) the book is trying to get more people at all levels to speak up when they think a big change is needed and argue for what they believe in and

c) I think he's funny and engaging in this clip, which helped win me over. If lots of people at all levels are finding it useful and it's helping shake organizations out of complacently doing what they've always done, then OK, I'll get over my dislike of the whole penguin thing (which is purely personal and therefore not relevant).

See what he says (click on the triangular play button, below. The YouTube server sometimes s-l-o-ws down, in which case apologies if you get a maddeningly slow version). And Prof. Kotter's website on the book is here Our iceberg is melting:

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