How a colony of penguins and a shark can help you make the right decisions and lead change. Nowadays, one of the skills (soft skills) expected in companies is change management or adaptability. What is change? What are the difficulties in leading the change to overcome challenges? To talk about change management, to understand the need to adapt and how I suggest you discover or rediscover the book Our Iceberg is melting. The book was written by John Kotter, Harvard professor and bestselling author, with the collaboration of Holger Rathgeber
I love the simplicity and the effectiveness of this fable which retransmits all the stages of the change management, the role and the character of each person involved. Above all, the film reminds us that driving change isn’t always fun, but success comes with will and a good team.
THE BOOK – Strategy for Change Management
Change is a profound modification that breaks habits and upsets the established order. This book is not a classic management book about change management but a fable that tells the story of a colony of penguins that must change their habits to survive. Most importantly a fable with the advantage of facilitating group discussions by making the subject less intimidating. It is easy to relate to the characters in the story, helping to demystify and simplify the subject.
Fred, an inquisitive penguin and the book’s main character, realises that the glacier occupied by the colony is melting and that the lives of his compatriots are in danger. Despite the gravity of the situation, convincing the other penguins is much more complicated than he thinks and many questions his analysis of the problem, of the following steps and declare that there is no cause for concern, that everything can go on, as usual.
Reading the situation described in the book very quickly, each penguin seems familiar to you, and you compare them without problems to some of your colleagues.
The main characters
- Fred: curious, observant and creative, who makes the discovery
- Alice: one of the 10 management council members of the colony. She is practical and active but can quickly become impatient and irritable.
- Louis: the leader, old, wise and patient. He is the head of the penguin council.
- Jordan: the professor is intellectual and analytical. Even if his analyses are relevant, he quickly annoys others with his long presentations and scientific vocabulary.
- Buddy – trustworthy, very popular and loved by most of the colony.
- No No – always negative, opposed to change, which does everything to undermine the efforts of others.
Four phases for change management strategy
The authors propose 4 phases and 8 steps process for leading change:
- 1. Create a sense of urgency: Help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately.
- 2. Form the steering team: a powerful coalition, a multidisciplinary team that will guide the rest of the group. The group will need the following skills and qualities: leadership, communication, credibility, and a sense of urgency.
- 3. Create a vision and strategy for change: clarified, clarified how the future will be different from the past and how you can make the future the new reality
- 4. Communicate to gain understanding and buy-in: Make sure that as many people as possible understand and agree to the vision and strategy. Encourage freedom of expression.
- 5. Empower others to act: remove obstacles and barriers as much as possible so that those who want to make the vision a reality can do so.
- 6. Produce results, get quick wins: even small ones, achieve visible successes as soon as possible, and ‘don’t forget to celebrate them. These first victories (Quick WIn in English) comfort the convinced, reassure the uncertain and “shakes up” the sceptics.
- 7. Persevere: From the first results, accelerate the movement, not relax the effort until the vision becomes a reality.
- 8. Create a new culture: keep the new ways of behaving and ensure they are successful until they become strong enough to replace the old traditions.
THE MOVIE -Change Management Example
Thanks to our penguin friends, we studied the different steps for change management. Using a news item, we will see the difficulties one can encounter in wanting to change the status -quo, the familiar environment and the day-to-day job.
Martin Brody, the new local police chief at a seaside resort, investigates the death of a young woman whose body is found on the beach. He concludes with a shark attack. Martin is the main character of one of the first films by Steven Spielberg: Jaws. The film is more acclaimed for its suspense than its educational and managerial qualities regarding change management. It is, however, a perfect example of the difficulty of change management despite a crisis.
Create a sense of urgency
As in the book, the hero faces a serious problem. He tries to create a sense of urgency (step 1). Despite the obvious signs, the city council convinced Martin not to act. The council is afraid of the negative effects on the tourist season and any mention of a shark attack in the press. Therefore our hero who follows the recommendations concludes with accidental death.
Following a second attack, in broad daylight, the municipal council must choose:
- a strong measure, prohibiting swimming, the time to get rid of the shark;
- or to favour the tourist activity of the island, the top financial resource of the city,
You can watch the city council scene for the first 2 minutes.
Despite all the warnings and facts, the sense of urgency is not strong enough. Many fishermen arrive in the small town to kill a common shark! Are steps 1 to 6 carried out? Unfortunately no!
Change Management Steps review
- 1. Create a sense of urgency: step is not finalized because the beaches are not yet closed,
- 2. Train the steering team: fishermen of all calibres set out in pursuit of the shark, with no concerted selection by a multidisciplinary team.
- 3. Create a vision and strategy for change, and 4. Communicate to make people understand and buy in: the procedure to follow is not clear, no cohesion between the chief of police, city council, and fishermen. Communication, unchecked, is through newspapers.
- 5. Give others the means to act 6. Produce results, wins quickly and 7. Persevere: The mayor refuses to follow the recommendations of the chief of police and thinks above all about the influx of tourists. The beaches will be monitored, but without a ban on closing them. Yes, there is a result, but the weak one.
Form the steering team, create a vision and strategy for change
Finally, after other shark attacks, the mayor no longer has a choice. He accepts the Chief of Police’s proposal and hires Quint (shark hunter) and Hooper (Oceanographer, shark specialist) to eliminate the problem.
Despite many twists and turns, the desired result is obtained. The chief of police implements change management until the end,
Sustain, create a new culture
This step is not covered in this movie. You have to watch the second film to check if the culture of change is well established. Or if everyone is going back to their daily routine.
Spielberg, with his hero, far from being perfect, shows us how difficult change management can be. Without the proper team and skills, it is far from easy to make the right decision, overcome challenges and lead the change.
- If the theme of change management or team development interests you, please read
- The Innovation Model
- Who Moved My Cheese?
- And/or reach out! David Gousset.