Book Review: Our Iceberg Is Melting

ouricebergismelting-bcChange is a constant in life. It can be done through decisive action or forced upon you through circumstances outside of your control. As technology breakthroughs are made and the world’s economies, politics, and social and cultural statuses and viewpoints shift, it is imperative for individuals and groups to adjust to those changes in order to remain relevant and successful. Sometimes though, this is much easier said than done.

As with every change comes resistance. It can be from a few individuals or a larger part of the group. The main question is; how can a person drive change to success?

Caught atop a melting iceberg, John Kotter’s fabled story Our Iceberg Is Melting (2006) looks at the fate of a group of Emperor Penguins who must change their way of life if they want to survive. Faced with the inevitable disaster of their home melting and collapsing into non-existence, the penguins must decide if they want to leave their home and opt for a more nomadic way of life or leave it up to fate and see what winter will bring. At first only one penguin identifies the problem. He must first convince the leadership council that the iceberg is melting before they are willing to engage the rest of the penguin community on a wider scale.

Fred is insistent. He knows that lives are at risk. Even when first rebuffed he does not give up and through his own creative thinking, finds a way to explain the problem to the council and convince them to act – fast. When they finally believe him and inform the rest of the community the reactions are anything but surprising. As expected for any organization seeking change, the reactions vary from doomsayers to go-getters to apathetic sideline viewers. It is only through Kotter’s 8 Step Process for Leading Change that the penguins are able to tackle the problem as a group and come up with a solution.


Through the use of metaphors and clearly defined roles – think chick penguins as junior staff and old, wise penguins as senior management – Kotter cleverly walks through the tools a person can use when navigating change. And unlike other leadership books that can seem a bit dry or stale (or even too stuck in their ways), Our Iceberg Is Melting is a refreshing and simplified version of some of the well-known steps for change, making it the perfect book for both leaders and staff to read. Honestly it took me less than an hour! But the treasure trove of ideas will last me a lifetime.

So, for anyone who is faced with the responsibility of inspiring change within their organization, this is a must read. Get to it!