Our Iceberg is Melting

‘Our  Iceberg is Melting’ is an interesting fable of how a colony of penguins overcome a looming threat, and a perplexing problem – the iceberg on which they live is melting – and find an effective new solution to counter it. It aims at helping readers change and succeed under any conditions through the tale of the penguins. 

Fables have captivated human minds from times immemorial. Within its simple storyline that is easy to remember is embedded profound truths and wise lesson(s). ‘Our Iceberg is Melting’ is no different and conveys quite graphically the modern day essentials of problem solving and the resulting change management. And when the fable is co-written by John Kotter,  the leadership and change management guru at the Harvard School of Business, it makes a compelling read. 

The book made me think about whether I was living on a melting iceberg or one that could melt. The authors, John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber say,  “Melting icebergs come in dozens of forms: product lines that are aging, schools that are becoming irrelevant, services that are decreasing in quality, a business strategy that makes little sense, a new strategy whose implementation is sinking into the ocean.”

Key takeaways from my reading of the book is the eight fold path that Kotter has come up with – distilled from his research on successful change management. 

The Eight Step process of successful change

Set the Stage

1.Create a sense of urgency : This refers to helping others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately.

2. Pulling together the Guiding Team: A powerful team needs to guide the change.  The team should have in them leadership skills, credibility, communication skills, authority, analytical skills and a sense of urgency. 

Decide what to do 

3. Develop the Change Vision and Strategy: Clarify how the future will be different from the past, and how it can make that future a reality. 

Make it Happen 

4. Communicate for Understanding and Buy in: Make sure that as many others as possible understand and accept the vision and the strategy. 

5. Empower others to Act: Remove as many barriers as possible so that those who want to make the vision a reality can do so. 

6. Produce Short-term Wins: Create some visible, unambiguous successes as soon as possible. 

7. Don’t let up: Press harder and faster after the first successes. Be relentless with initiating change after change until the vision is a reality. 

Make it Stick

8. Create a New Culture: Hold on to the new ways of behaving, and make sure they succeed, until they become strong enough to replace old traditions. 

The Role of Thinking and Feeling 

Thinking differently is essential to help change behaviour and lead to better results. 

  • Collect data, analyse it. 
  • Present the information logically to change people’s thinking. 
  • Changed thinking can, in turn, change behaviour. 

Feeling differently can change behaviour more and lead to even better results. 

  • Creating surprising, compelling, and,  if possible, visual experiences. 
  • The experiences change how people feel about a situation. 
  • A change in feelings can lead to a significant change in behaviour. 

Analysing a problem / intended change in four columns using the eight steps is a powerful tool for reflection. 

More tools for making change happen is available at http://www.ouricebergismelting.com http://www.theheartofchange.com http://www.johnkotter.com

Amazing changes can happen when all stakeholders are convinced and are on the same page with respect to change. 

This book is a must read for all including professionals and students. So, what is your iceberg? Is it melting? What’s the way forward??  Read, think and reflect – and embark on your journey to confront your problem and come up with ways of doable and practical problem solving. 

🌟🌟🌟🌟 is my rating for this book. 

Looking at Possibilities

While doing my MOOC with Coursera on Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence*, Prof. Richard Boyatzis, the Course Instructor shared with us a host of videos that were inspiring. Of it all, the one that captured my attention and being was that of a YouTube video on Under Four Trees – a school that was started by Mrs. Zikhali for a small community in Nkomo Primary School in rural KwaZulu Natal, Mnqobokazi, South Africa. The amazing project is sure to leave you inspired. Do watch this link below – and if you are in the field of education, this is a must watch.

To me it focused on two things:
The power education can wield even making the poorest of the poor, rich.
Passion for what one does can convert all of the problems into possibilities.

Two wonderful lessons. It is not that these are eureka moments – it has always been there. However, when one sees the fruits of the events through videos and films, it conveys home a very strong message, and encompasses you with an unshakable faith that there is nothing that we cannot accomplish. 

When Nomusa Haslot Zikhali, the Principal, reached Mnqobokazi to start the school, she was flabbergasted. There were no buildings. No resources. Just a wild field replete with undergrowth and bushes. The challenges were too many. Inclement weather. Rains that would make the stream they had to cross overflow with water. Crocodiles in the stream. Dust laden winds. Parents wanting their children to look after cattle or even younger siblings. And that was when she decides to move closer to the community and set up the school. She had to go from home to home in the community to impress upon them the need to educate their children. Her passion to educate these children weighed high than the troubles and travails.

In spite of that, in January 1999, there were just 10 children ready to join the school. And where was the school started? Under Four Trees!!! Each class – Classes 1 ,2, and 3 were allotted one tree each and the fourth one was Mrs. Zikhali’s office. As an educator, I am ashamed to say that I would have given up and just left the place for greener pastures. I am sure 99% of us educators would have done that. But not, Mrs. Zikhali. She persisted. And converted every problem into a possibility. The government did send other teachers to start the school, but they all gave up. Mrs. Zikhali on the other hand took the challenge head on. Thus from a one-teacher-220-student school, Nkomo Primary School has moved into another league now: 900 students and 23 teachers. Eight classrooms. And plenty of support from Africa Foundation to raise money for infrastructure.

Another challenge Mrs. Zikhali had to face was the presence of most vulnerable children in her school – whom she calls Child-headed Households, a chilling euphemism for those whose both parents were dead. Her school now has 153 of them – i.e. 17% of the under-13. To persist under these challenging and emotionally draining circumstances requires determination and the keen desire to make a difference in these students’ lives, which she had in plenty.  Her inspirational tale of nurturing, educating and transforming has been made into a movie called Under Four Trees by filmmakers Suzanne Cross and John Simpson.

Inspirational Leader

Inspirational Leader

Thank you Mrs. Zikhali for teaching me some very crucial lessons. The best one I will cherish and practice is to convert every problem into a possibility! If we look for solutions we can think creatively and find a way or two. However, many of us look only at the problems and therefore the possibility of a solution is just not there in the vicinity or in the periphery. May your tribe increase and be beacons that will enlighten the path of many educators like me.

Resources:
1. Mrs. Zikhali’s photograph from http://underfourtrees.co
2. http://bit.ly/14THso9

[* I wrote about being a fan of online learning vide my post http://bit.ly/18t4aUI. Am delighted to get a certificate signed by Prof. Richard Boyatzis, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio and to have completed it with 84.5%. If you have never tried a MOOC, please do it today! 🙂 ]