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Bennie Lee Graves

EDUL 7063 Philosophy of Leadership in Education

Book Review: Our Iceberg Is Melting Kotter, J. (2005)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Dr. William Kritsonis, PhD Professor PhD Program in Educational Leadership PVAMU The Texas A&M University System
Delco 233 wakritsonis@pvamu.edu 936-261-3530
Abstract What does change lead to? A plethora of questions arise when anyone is in a fix. Our Iceberg Is Melting is a simple book narrating a delightful story of a colony of penguins. The purpose of this paper is to shed light on the theme of change through a fable of a penguin colony in Antarctica. Keywords: change, plethora, narrating, fable, colony


It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change. Heraclitus, Greek Philosopher About five years ago Ketter released a book entitled, Our Iceberg is Melting. The book is a great fable about working and living in an ever changing society. This enchanting story about a penguin colony in Antarctica exemplifies important truths about how deal with the issue of postmodern view of change. Faced with certain tragedy Kotter illustrates how the penguins, identified the problem, created urgency, developed a team-building structure and stepped outside the box. Fred the main character notices a problem that might destroy the lives of many penguins that live in the colony. However, he does not have a position on the Group of Ten Council or the reputation to request time to speak at the town meeting. If he was allowed to speak at the town meeting, he would not be taken seriously. Meanwhile, Fred ponders how he could get the Leadership Council to listen and to buy into the problem without embarrassing himself and ruining his reputation (Kotter, 2005). According to Knight (2007) the penguins are living happily on their iceberg as they have done for many years. Then one curious penguin discovers a potentially devastating problem threatening their home - and pretty much no one listens to him. The characters in this fable are like people we recognize, even ourselves. The story is one of resistance to change and heroic action, confusion and insight, seemingly intractable obstacles and the most clever tactics for dealing with those obstacles.


Two of the birds on the Leadership Council loved to debate the validity of any statistics. And they loved to debate for hours and hours and hours and hours. These two were the more vocal advocates lobbing for longer meeting. (p.22)

It is a story that is occurring in different forms around us today - but the penguins handle change a great deal better than most of us. After all, this particular colony is a very close colony. Yet, Fred gains the help of fellow penguins Alice, Louis, and Buddy his first support and cheering squad of penguins. Buddy produced the bottle. It was clearly broken from ice that had grown too big to fit inside. Im convinced, Buddy told them (Kotter, 2005, p. 41). Fred, had a vision that no other penguin saw; this made him the newest laughing stock of the penguin community. The visionary (Fred) discovered the disastrous problem could only highlight the problem and provide the evidence needed to show the threat is real, but he lacked the solutions needed to assist the colony. Even though the story is simple and easy to read, the morals and ideals are mentioned has a universal reach. First, they gather a team of efficient thinkers. Another two penguins, namely, Buddy and Professor join them. The set of five penguins are considered a good team as each of them has a unique quality. It is a reasonable question, the Head Penguin said, Look at the five of us, Professor. Define the challenge clearly. Make a list in your mind of each of our strengths. Deduce an answer to your own question (Kotter, 2005 p. 48). Kotter infuses his eight principles of problem solving in his story. For example: 1. Set the state create a sense of urgency.

2. Pull together the guiding group make sure there is a powerful diverse group guiding the change.


3. Decide what to do develop the change vision and strategy, clarify how the future will be different from the past. 4. Make it happen communicate for understanding, make sure that as many as possible understand and accept the vision and strategy. 5. Empower others to act remove as many barriers as possible. 6. Create short term wins create some visible unambiguous successes as soon as possible. 7. Dont let up press harder and faster after the first success. 8. Make it stick create a new culture hold on to the new way of behaving. Having worked a Blinn College for twenty-one years, I have been asked to reinvent myself, the work environment, the work I do, and my interpersonal relationships every day. How can I be more accepting of change? Well, it is human nature to want to hold on to the familiar and stable concepts. Nevertheless, it is exactly that refusal to accept change that can prevent one from succeeding. Yet, when one reflect on the human body, it consists of fifty trillion cells. The cells contain enough iron to make a three-inch nail and enough lead to make 600 pencils. The eyes can determine up to 10,000 different colors. The tongue has 10, 000 taste buds that allow one to differentiate up to 500 tastes. The brain contains 15 billion cells to allow one the ability to manipulate the information contained within it in creative and innovative ways. This is a living example of change and renewal. It is such that one has a chance to reflect on the body as a mirror that helps one to see that the ever-changing environment is altering every minute of the day (Estabrooks, 2009). As an administrator at Blinn College, it is imperative that I am innovative, flexible, and adaptable. I have learned that one must remain flexible and be prepared for the unexpected. Should the unexpected become an obstacle, be willing to make some midcourse corrections.


Success is frequently not a straight road. There are often many bumps and curves with roadblocks and detours when least expected. After reading this book, I accept the need for change when it becomes clear that I have done all I can do in a situation that is not working. Acceptance is the hard part. I often tell my students that negative feelings, a sense of helplessness, and lowered selfesteem result when something you are doing is not working out, but you are afraid to make a change. An unhappy young adult may continue without help in a relationship that makes both partners miserable because one or the other is afraid of the changes that the relationship counseling might require. An individual who has been offered a new and better job or a transfer to a higher-paying job out of the state may turn down the offer because he or she fears change. Trying to avoid change by ignoring a problem can be self-destructive. Negative feelings breed more negative feelings, encouraging the mistaken belief that a bad situation can only get worse (Kanar, 2011). Singleton (2006) states that we tend to respond to change the same way we respond to anything we perceive as a threat: by flight or fight. Our first reaction is flight---we try to avoid change if we can. We do what futurist Faith Popcorn calls cocooning: we seal ourselves off from those around us and try to ignore what is happening. This can happen in the workplace just by being passive. We dont volunteer for teams or committees; we dont make suggestions, ask questions, or offer constructive criticism. But the changes ahead are inescapable. Those who cocoon themselves will be left behind. Our Iceberg Is Melting, does a great job showing that most problems be it personal or work related under any condition can be solved with the right strategies in place and when it is properly supported by those in key positions to effect positive change and can make it happen.


The air of the penguin colony is indeed electric with confusion and conflicts as very few penguins can spot change and are ready to get complacency down and adapt to it while others are unfortunately headstrong enough to believe that their iceberg will never melt. To them, everything will always be the same, and those who talk about change are insane. Furthermore, the fables setting in the cold Antarctica is intriguingly used as an irony. Underneath those huge mountains of cold and spine-chilling iceberg burns the incessant heat of conflicts and mistrust among penguins of different temperaments, beliefs, and behaviors (Kotter, 2005). In summary, for some people resisting change, there may be multiple reasons. Adding to this complexity is the fact that sometimes the stated reason hides the real more deeply personal reason. As an administrator, I need to recognize that people work through a psychological change process as they give up the old and come to either embrace or reject the new. Typically, they may experience an initial denial, then begin to realize that the change cannot be ignored. Strong feelings may emerge, such as fear, anger, helplessness and frustration. Finally, the person accepts the change either negatively, with feelings of resignation and complacency, or positively, with renewed enthusiasm to capitalize on the changes. It is my responsibility to watch out for people who get stuck in one phase. I must offer my support. Allow space for that individual to work through the stages and give the individual time to draw breath and listen with empathy. As one writer said: Our foreparents lived through sea changes, upheavals so cataclysmic, so devastating we may never appreciate the fortitude and resilience required to survive them. The next time you feel resistant, think about them and what they faced---and about what they fashioned from a fraction of the options we have. They blended old and new worlds, creating family, language, cuisine and new


life-affirming rhythms, and they encouraged their children to keep on stepping toward an unknown but malleable future. (Singleton, p.2)

References Estabrooks, A. (2009). Dealing with change. Retrieved from http://www.zeromillion. com./business.change.html Kanar, C. (2011). The confident student. Boston, MA: Wadsworth. Kotter, J. (2005). Our iceberg is melting. New York, NY: St. Martins Press. Murphy, M. (2011). Our iceberg is melting. Retrieved from http://ezinearticles.com/?BookReview---Our-Iceberg-Is-Melting&id=447009 Singleton, S. (2006). Coping with change: Develop your personal strategy. Retrieved from http://ezinearticles.com/?Coping-wth-Change:-Develop-Your-PersonalStrategy&id=51313