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Book review: Leading Change - Our Iceberg is melting

Our iceberg is melting is not a new release – in fact its first edition dates back from 2005. Nevertheless, the content of this wonderful fable about change management is still valid today. Organizations are constantly evolving in order to adapt to a changing environment. The authors of the book, John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber, describe the change that a penguin colony must undertake in order to adjust to a changing reality and preserve their lives.

The reader shall not get fooled by the numerous illustrations that populate the pages of this book. This is not a children’s book. And this is precisely what makes it so valuable. In a world with abundance of academic materials about change management, using penguins instead of complex flowcharts increases the reader engagement – and make the key concepts stick.

The reader will surely recognize the characters of the book. For instance, Fred, an observant penguin who identifies and explains the issue to Alice. She is the go getter penguin that puts the information forward to the agenda of colony’s counsel. Or Louis, the head penguin, wise and respected by all except the naysayers (sure we can all think of naysayers in our organizations!). And Buddy, a not so wise but charismatic penguin whose main role is to provide assurance and confidence in times of distrust. Finally, don’t forget the Professor, who will make use of scientific evidence to back up the need for change throughout the arduous journey. The change team is ready, and they will be covering all required stages; creating and communicating a vision, circumventing obstacles, getting the colony onboard, empowering it and recognizing the efforts carried out by all. These are, in a nutshell, the stages that the reader is navigated through since the need for change is detected until it is successfully implemented (apologies for the spoiler, but when has a fable end up badly?).

I read this book during the lockdown caused by coronavirus, which made its lecture very special. At the end of the day, this pandemic will lead the whole world to live in a different way, what has been coined as “new normality”. What a better example of change management than this? One can mull over the reasons that have caused a poor management of the pandemic, specially during the initial stage. A scientific article published in 2007 (Clin. Microbiol Rev 20(4)) took the role of Fred and warned about it:The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the reemergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.” Was there an Alice to put this item in the agenda of all world leaders? Were there too many Louis’ leading the efforts to fight the battle against the virus? Did the community trust its leaders? The lecture of this book brings an opportunity to reflect in these aspects and rationalize change management.


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