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Summary of the book Our iceberg is melting

Our Iceberg is Melting While John Kotter’s text ‘Our Iceberg is Melting’ is ostensibly about a colony of penguins facing potential extinction, in actuality it is a complex and astute fable of business leadership, management, and change. While the text is about a colony of penguins, Kotter personifies these animals with names and briefcases. Kotter begins the text stating, Once upon a time a colony of penguins was living in the frozen Antarctic on an iceberg near what we call today Cape Washington (Kotter 2006, p. 1). The most important penguins are in what is referred to as the Leadership Council. One recognizes the direct linkage between the name of this council and similar elements in the business environment, further heightening the story’s allegorical significance. Additionally, the Leadership Council is structured similarly to a boardroom. Louis is the designated leader of the council, akin to the CEO position in the organizational environment. The other penguins in the Leadership Council – Alice, Fred, Buddy, and Jordan – represent different poles on the spectrum of personality. To a great degree it appears that Kotter implements these differing personalities as a means of exploring notions of organizational change, as similar personality conflicts also emerge in this environment. One day Fred decides to study the iceberg the penguins are living on. Fred discovers that there is a possibility that the iceberg is going to develop cracks and break into pieces. Fred faces the challenge of determining what to do. One considers that Fred’s challenge in approaching this issue is similar to the challenge individuals in an organizational environment face in instituting change or attempting to develop product innovation. Since Fred is scared to directly approach the Leadership Council he tells Alice about the problem and they begin to consider the best course of action. Alice specifically tells Fred that some penguins are highly averse to change. Eventually Fred gets an opportunity to go before the Leadership Council. He decides that in presenting his idea he will bring along a model of the ice to demonstrate the potential problem. After presenting his idea to the council the text reveals that some people support it, while others are against it. Notably, the penguin responsible for weather forecasting thought it was a joke. It’s clear that Kotter is using this rejection of Fred’s idea to demonstrate that oftentimes organizational change is met with significant obstacles. Ultimately, Fred produces evidence the iceberg may split through demonstrating the process in frozen water. The other penguins then come to agree with his perspective. Kotter uses this instance to show a crucial stage in the process of organizational change. The proceeding portions of the text further explore organizational change through the steps the penguins take to address the iceberg problem. Louis, the head of the Leadership Council, starts by putting together a team of individuals. Eventually the group views a seagull and recognizes the nomadic lifestyle the bird lives. Viewing the seagull gives the group a vision and strategy. One considers that vision and strategy are prominent aspects of organizational change. The group then sets out to communicate this vision and strategy to the other penguins. Initially the group encounters challenges and a lack of focus in communicating their vision. Buddy, a penguin, speaks to the other penguins about the high importance of change. The penguins then established a number of events, including the Tribute to Our Heroes Day, as a means of welcoming home the scout penguins. The strong similarity between this event and events in the business world such as employee appreciation day should be evident. Kotter uses this event to demonstrate how it can empower all the penguins in the colony – or individuals in the organization – to take tangible actions towards change. Eventually Fred puts together an elite group to scout for a solution to the problem. The group responds by devising a way to ensure that the young penguins will be fed while they are away. It is not long before these penguins successfully return from the scout mission. this is used as a means of demonstrating that in organizations short-term wins are contribute to motivation. After finding a suitable iceberg the penguins then set about the process of moving the colony. After moving to the new colony the group establishes a new Leadership Council. The change to the new Leadership Council demonstrates that organizations must implement new organizational cultures as a means of adapting to change. Ultimately, the colony successfully moves to the new iceberg and adapts to the organizational change. References Kotter, J. (2006). Our Iceberg is Melting. London: St. Martin’s Press. Print.

Summary of the book Our iceberg is melting