Thursday, July 07, 2011

Our Iceberg is Melting - Collaboration

Our Iceberg Is Melting 
by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber

Our Iceberg Is Melting is a simple fable about doing well in an ever-changing world. Based on the award-winning work of Harvard's John Kotter, it is a story that has been used to help thousands of people and organizations.

The fable is about a penguin colony in Antarctica. A group of beautiful emperor penguins live as they have for many years. Then, one curious bird discovers a potentially devastating problem threatening their home, and pretty much no one listens to him.

The characters in the story, Fred, Alice, Louis, Buddy, the Professor, and NoNo, are like people we recognize — even ourselves. Their tale is one of resistance to change and heroic action, seemingly intractable obstacles and the most clever tactics for dealing with those obstacles. It's a story that is occurring in different forms all around us today — but the penguins handle the very real challenges a great deal better than most of us.

Our Iceberg Is Melting is based on pioneering work that shows how the 8 Steps produce needed change in any sort of group. It's a story that can be enjoyed by anyone while at the same time providing invaluable guidance for a world that just keeps moving faster and faster.

Although written as a children's tale, the story provides great insight into the difficulties with collaboration as a means of attianing group success.  The group of penguins come to symbolize the universal members of most work groups.  The take charge member, the do all the work member, the organizer, the naysayer, the do gooder, the newbie and the volunteer who does nothing.  

The Penguins   

Fred – younger, open to all new ideas, overly curious, very observant, anxious to please, level headed, thinker, creative, still wide eyed, willing to volunteer for anything 
Alice –  practical, tough, need to prove she belongs, reputation for being tough, gets things done, focused on the goal at hand, knows the colony, doesn't back down, smart but not arrogant
Louis - Head Penguin in Charge – very patient, wise from experience, overly conservative, calm, respected by most, experiential intelligent;
NoNo – negative, closed to new ideas, favorite comment "we have never done that"
The Professor – scholarly intelligence, data based, fascinated by the problem not the solution, question, not really social
Buddy - everybody loves him, no ambition, trusted and liked, not an intellectual, always present but unproductive

Kotter does an excellent job of understandning the value and importance of change, while also outlining the difficulties that change brings about.  As the penguins seek a solution to their problem and inevitible change that must take place Kotter provides a road map of Eight Steps for Leading Change:
Create Urgency 
Form Powerful Coalitions
Create a Vision for Change
Communicate the Vision
Remove Obstacles to Empower Broad-based Actions
Generate Short-Term Wins
Build on Changes and Gain Momentum
Weave the Changes into the Culture 

Our Iceberg is a Melting is amust read for anyone in education who wishes to bring about positive changes within the curriculum, culture and community of the school.  Kotter provides great insight into the role of change in the healthy environment of any community based upon collaboration.     

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