Sunday, October 07, 2007

Our iceberg is melting

Last week I was one of the speakers at the 4th CM workshop organized by TOPIC Embedded Systems and Philips Applied Technologies. I spoke about how Web 2.0 technology will have its (change) effect on configuration management. As a speaker, we received a nice presents, a book by John Kotter and Enter Rathgeber:

Our Iceberg is Melting

Most of you know how I hate reading books. So at first I forgot about the book, leaving it in my suitcase for over a week. Today I started reading it, and finishing it! And I love it!
It reminds me of the book Peopleware by DeMarco and Lister which I also read in a single breath, and loved. Peopleware and Our Iceberg is Melting are the only books I read in the last decade that I absolutely love - and finished.

Now you probably wonder what is so special about these books. Well, first of all you should read them yourself. Both books are about people, in case of the Iceberg in the form of a fable with penguins. I had no difficulty whatsoever to project the story on a real life situation at work and real people from work.
Quite often I encounter people like Fred, Alice, the Professor, Buddy and of course NoNo. Unfortunately, I hardly ever encounter talents like Louis, a respected senior manager who knows how to manage how to manage people.

Anyway, take a look at The Iceberg is Melting, it is worth it.

1 comment:

Bob H. said...

The dominant management paradigm in America is portrayed via caricature in the book Our Iceberg is Melting. The paradigm is an Ivy League/Harvard Business school view of management. It is especially dominant in American politics, management of production, and management of government institutions (including education).

In this paradigm, management views workers to be like:
1) Buddy (no ambition)
2) Harold (trouble maker that tried to share his ideas without Leadership Council buy-in)
3) Sally Ann (just wanted to be told what to do)
4) the kindergarten teacher (afraid of losing job, and easily controlled), and of course
5) the golden boy Fred (who, spent all day with Alice (his Leadership Council mentor) exploring the deep, dark cavern). [Alice and Fred did seem to have a certain chemistry, and she sure wasn’t about to “fact find” with Harold]

The Leadership Council was less concerned about the scientific process of gathering understanding than about politically managing the issue to gain power. When secrets of the Council were shared, communication was via signs posted throughout the colony (one-way communication). When the signs and other Leadership Council activity had created sufficient political support (manifested in public opinion polls), one faction of the Leadership Council was willing to act. This is not leadership as much as maneuvering to gain political advantage; not about their iceberg melting but about gaining political power. When political advantage was gained, the entire colony was directed to leave their home and become nomadic.

The book ended without the Leadership Council ever considering whether the decision was correct. They never bothered to see if their iceberg had melted. It didn’t matter.

In the penguin colony there were two types of penguins: Leadership Council, and everyone else. The Leadership Council controlled information flow (by shunning Harold and making him a dangerous person to associate with), not seeking content expertise in a meaningful way, and by advertising/selling their vision. In the United States, information flow is controlled by the media and by special interest groups that fund politicians willing to support their needs (frequently donating to both Republicans and Democrats).

As long as money can control the one-way flow of information, content expertise is not valued, and reality is whatever the controlling faction declares. The United States will continue to become more class stratified (less middle class), less educated in critical thinking (e.g. just stick to the three R’s), and less competitive in the world. The view that political control is more important than reality, or science, or the scientific method provides justification for many of the abuses committed by corporate executives and government officials. Truth is whatever can be politically brokered; truth is what “big brother” says. Power makes right. The Leadership Council determined truth, and controlled the lives of the other penguins. Global warming, emission controls, alternative energy, the war in Iraq, accountability in education, abortion, prayer in school, and almost every issue facing the United States is viewed as a political contest with factions seeking a constituency, funding, and the power to be the final arbiter of what is true. In this view there is a winner and a loser, but no middle ground or compromise. Minority opinions and minority needs are frequently forgotten, and the very basis of our democracy is being re-written.

Every idea needs Leadership Council buy-in prior to any public discussion. The Leadership Council (or factions) politically decides the merits of an idea, then maneuvers to gain a constituency (power). This management paradigm is what is wrong with America. Management does not want workers to talk to each other about change (i.e. problems). Politicians don’t want to discuss the merits of alternative ideas. Whether the idea (or technology) will work is unimportant. It never is about the idea. It is only about the political process. Winner take all.