Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions

If you liked “Who moved my cheese”, you would probably enjoy “Our Iceberg Is Melting as well. The author’s explain how change can be effected in an organization via the story of a group of penguins that is forced to relocate because their current iceberg of residence is melting. The story is about how a group of “leader” penguins determine if relocation is needed, and once the answer is determined to be a YES, form a team to come up with the plan to effect the change – which includes selling the need for the change (relocation) to larger penguin population, forming sub-teams to figure out the new location and associated logistics, motivating the teams on a constant basis to not lose focus and then aiding in the relocation. Once this is done the first time, the need to keep moving and find stable iceberg on a constant basis is enforced into the population, implying that the only thing that is constant is change itself.I did not feel that there was anything particularly eye-opening/new insights with respect to “Change Management” itself. It involves the typical –

  1. Leaders need to determine if the particular change is actually needed. Collect and analyze appropriate data before buying into it
  2. Once you think it is needed, form an appropriate team that can look at the facts and come up with a plan to effect the change
  3. Lead (and do not necessarily coerce) the team to come up with the plan. Prod the teams at appropriate times to keep them focused at the task at hand. (This can be delegated as needed).
  4. Next is the important task of selling the change to general population or team(s) affected. Change is always tough to digest and the purpose needs to be explained in a manner that appeals and makes sense to the population. If necessary dispose “change agents” to specific populations to communicate the change on a constant basis in a consistent manner.
  5. Once there is buy-in from the general population, then the change needs to be effected by appropriate teams. All the while, the need for the change and the pain associated with it may have to be explained/re-enforced multiple times.
  6. Of course, you would have to constantly evaluate how the plan is going and make adjustments as needed (not mentioned in the book)
  7. Finally, prepare the population for future change(s)

Of course, there will be variations to the above process depending on the organization.

There were 2 important lessons related to “Change Management” that was re-enforced for me from this book. It is a very tentative/shy and inquisitive but not a leader penguin that determines something is wrong in the environment they are living and that iceberg in fact could be melting. The shy penguin brings this information up to one of the leader penguins that is known to be receptive to new information and does not pooh-pooh them. Here is what I got out of it –

  1. One (and leaders in particular) has to have their eyes and ears open to suggestions from anyone in the organization.
  2. If you feel that change is needed and is not in a position to affect it directly, understand the organization hierarchy, culture and personalities and use it as necessary to percolate information/data up the management chain. Always go with data that can be digested in an easy manner by the leaders which is easier said that done.



  1. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said December 26, 2007, 11:34 pm:

    Good review Ganesh. The allegory in “who moved my cheese” was focused on personal change management whereas “Iceberg..” seems to be focused on Organizational Change Management. The lesson that you brought out “listening to the weak signal/voice” is an important leadership trait – one that can make or break organizations. And another that you allude to, it need not always be the leader who identifies the issues or challenges, it is enough if you paid attention to your team mates. Most often leaders spend their energy in pushing their own agenda that they fail to listen or keep track of the ground realities and trends seen by the staff.

  2. Quote
    Priya Raju said December 27, 2007, 4:48 am:

    Thanks for the review, Ganesh. The part I liked the most – though, as you say it isn’t a new point – is how the leader(s) need not always coerce the team.

    I read this analogy recently: For the life of me, I can’t remember who said this. “You cannot force people to believe in something. Such external pressure is like cracking open an egg. Its only fit for an omelette. But when people change their views on their own accord, its akin to the egg breaking from inside – a live bird is the result. You have to let people figure things out themselves”.

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    Sukumar (subscribed) said December 27, 2007, 5:43 am:

    That is a very insightful comment Priya. The analogy is superb.

  4. Quote

    Good insight priya… whether we need an omlette or a chicken 🙂

    (But there are occasions, where we need an omlette.. ie, under critical situations, the leader might have no option than to coerce to achieve a particular result.. But that should be only temporary..)

  5. Quote
    Priya Raju said December 27, 2007, 11:29 am:

    Thanks Sukumar. I’m trying to find out where I read that now.

    Thanks Senthil. Yeah, the leader may have to force some of his/her ideas on the team sometimes.

  6. Quote
    Ganesh Vaideeswaran said December 27, 2007, 12:08 pm:


    Great analogy about an egg and coercing. I guess in management terms, it is leading by influence vs. leading by power. Former is always better.

    And yes, I do agree with Senthil that different situations require different styles of management such as –

    – Democratic
    – Affiliative
    – Pacesetting
    – Autocratic/Coorecive
    – Authoritative
    – Coaching

    However, in general, to obtain buy-in into long-term vision of an organization, Authoritative – where the vision is articulated clearly, employee inputs are solicited, selling of the vision, execution is monitored (not judged) and feedback is leveraged would be the way to go.

    For small teams working on a particular task, Affiliative and Democratic styles could be the way to go.

    Coaching style is something that could be used on a 1:1 basis to enhance the professional development of an individual.

    Pacesetting, is one where the manager shows by example what it takes to be a high-performing individual and is fearful of delegation. This style has its place and typically should not be used over a long period of time. A new manager, especially one who just moved from being a technical contributor to being a manager, has a tendency to fall upon this style more than often and needs to make a conscious decision to move away from it possibly towards a coaching style especially when dealing with individual contributors in the team.

    Disclaimer: The above 6 styles of management is what IBM inculcates into its employees. Much of what I have written in this comment with respect to management style is based on literature from IBM.


  7. Quote
    Ganesh Vaideeswaran said December 27, 2007, 4:45 pm:


    You are absolutely right. “Cheese” is for personal/individual change management while “Iceberg” is more focused on organizational change management. That about summarizes the differences between these 2 books.


  8. Quote

    Hi Ganesh,
    I loved ‘Who moved my cheese”, so I think, I should read this book. I suppose penguins would make more interesting protagonist compared to mouse. Even with “Who moved my cheese” there were no particularly eye-opening/new insights, however the message was so powerful. It made you feel that change was real and tangible, not something abstract.
    I liked your insights on the shy penguin who actually identified the problem. I think all great leaders possess this quality of being receptive to new ideas, regardless of the souce of the information. Very often leaders make the mistake of judging the message by the messenger.

  9. Quote
    Ganesh Vaideeswaran said December 30, 2007, 12:22 pm:

    Thanks Archana. You are right that leaders/managers need to develop the attitude of accepting input/feedback from anyone in the organization.


  10. Quote

    I enjoyed your review and analysis, Sukumar. And here’s wishing you and your family a happy new year.

  11. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 2, 2008, 10:48 am:

    Thanks for stopping by April. The post is actually by Ganesh, one of my fellow bloggers. Happy new year to you and your family as well.

  12. Quote
    William Evelsizer said June 13, 2008, 11:21 am:

    Great words of wisdom guys. The difference between the two books is seen very easily in the titles. What are the pronouns in the titles? That’s right, “MY” and “OUR”. Cheese is about dealing with change and Our Iceberg is about leading change. In fact, when cheese first cam out many companies would have their employees read the book just before they would conduct large lay-offs. Ouch! The moral of cheese is simply stated; how do you “deal” when someone else changes your situation.

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