I've just finished reading this short book. It explains Kotter's Eight Step Process for Change that he first described in more conventional form in Leading Change and then Heart of Change. It tells the story of a colony of penguins who eventually commit to abandoning the iceberg they have inhabited for generations.
Whilst it won;t make the Man Booker shortlist next year, I found the fable subtle, realistic and rich enough to keep me reading, and it didn't take long to read the 147 pages of large type, several of which were devoted to some very attractive colour illustrations of points in the story. The story illustrations of Kotter's model were good, and the penguin characters had some familiarity, particularly NoNo the influential saboteur, who did all he could to oppose the change.
This is designed as a more accessible format for the type of manager who would rather freeze on an ice floe than read a research-based management book such as Kotter's original Leading Change. The authors researched how some of the key messages of Kotter's work could be better communicated through story-telling and enhanced by good pictures.
And I think the authors have pulled it off. I can see this book going down well in certain team contexts or change management training courses. Well worth checking out, and it won't take much time to read.
In 1995, John Kotter had an idea. He identified eight reasons why transformational change within organisations can fail. These were then inverted to create eight steps to implement transformational change. They are:
* Establish a Sense of Urgency * Create the Guiding Coalition * Develop a Vision and Strategy * Communicate the Change Vision * Empower Employees for Broad-Based Action * Generate Short-Term Wins * Consolidate Gains and Producing More Change * Anchor New Approaches in the Culture
These eight steps were grounded in real life examples and, in my own experience, are very sensible steps. I am a Kotter fan.
But for the past 20 years, John Kotter has been dining out on this single idea. I have seen his original model published twice in the Harvard Business Review; Kotter has expanded the idea into a best-selling book (Leading Change, 1996); and has set up the Kotter International to sell the concept to businesses which have, presumably, not read the HBR articles or bought his book.
Ten years after having the big idea, Kotter wrote a fable to illustrate the eight steps with the help of some penguins. It's a cutesy story written in large letters padded out with lots of white space (like snow) and cutesy pictures of penguins. There are humorous asides to the reader, offering a reminder that this is all about business theory and that penguins don't really carry briefcases and attend business meetings.
It is well done, and Kotter offers a good portrayal of the various forms of opposition and resistance that can build up, and how best to overcome it. Kotter seems unsure that readers will spot the brilliance of the fable, so he spells it out at the end in words of one syllable. He then explains that organisations seeking to undergo transformational change should buy copies of the book and distribute them widely amongst those who will be leading the change. He suggests that discussing the penguins around the table will help to diffuse potentially confrontational situations, and take the personality issues out of play.
Perhaps the penguins can be more than a pretty illustration of the eight steps. Perhaps they can, in and of themselves, become tools to be deployed to facilitate change. I have my doubts and cannot quite envisage commencing a change project by handing out a pile of penguin books and asking senior managers to read them. I suspect they would be more comfortable with reprints of the original Harvard Business Review article - but maybe my lack of imagination is what is stopping me from being a hero penguin.
After reading this book you will want to explore Kotters other work:
* Leading Change and
* The Heart of Change.
These give you the depth and breadth that is obviously missing here. I have found other books that I thought had the edge, over Kotters work these include:
*Strategic Organization Change - Pub 2005. It is based around a comprehensive organization model and linked change processes, that leads you to what I think is a more realistic view of how to proceed, that is easier to digest than some aspects of Kotters work which has been around for a while now. (see my other reviews)
*Tool kit for Organizational change, by Thomas Cawsey - Pub 2007. This is the product of 10 years work, the result is a very useful, readable and pragmatic guide to organizational change.(see my other reviews)
A little like 'Who Moved my Cheese, but this time with penguins instead of mice.
This is an easily read fable about a colony of penguins who come to the realisation that their iceberg is at risk of disintegration. The various penguins featured here represent roles played by people during times of change - Nono, the change resister, Alice the action orientated and sometimes impatient manager, the professor who analyses and theorises, and so on.
The eight steps to leading change, covered in Kotter's book 'Leading Change' are covered in this enjoyable and thought provoking short book of under 150 pages. The illustrations made me smile and I can see how this book could be used as an effective training tool.
Well worth reading - especially if you are already familiar with Kotter's eight steps