A friend presented me with a nice book by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber: “Our Iceberg Is Melting”, with an explanatory subtitle: “Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions”. It is written in the form of a fable, with catching illustrations of speaking penguins, and tells about a colony of penguins living on an iceberg, where penguin Fred realises that their iceberg is due to break apart soon, and submits his discovery to the penguins’ Leadership Council. It is imperative to find a solution, hence the quarrels between penguins, until a solution is found and implemented.
I discussed this book with some friends, and each highlighted some aspects and characters of the parable: authoritative Louis, the Head Penguin, NoNo who was always opposed to innovation, Buddy, the young, creative penguin, Jordan called the Professor, the sharing attitude of the younger, but no-one mentioned the passage about the tough and practical penguin Alice, who worked fourteen hours a day to help achieve the plan to move to another iceberg, which was the identified solution.
Apart from any judgement on Sergio Marchionne and his Fiat, it is undeniable that he has shown a creative and visionary approach to management; among other things, he obtained, in a period of serious economic crisis, to be paid an enormous amount from General Motors to release it from the unwanted acquisition of Fiat’s majority stake, he viewed the US automobile crisis and consequent takeover of Chrysler’s majority at zero cost as a unique opportunity to reposition at worldwide level, he redefined industrial relations in Italy as nobody had been able to do in previous decades.
At the time, when discussing Fiat’s acquisition of Chrysler, people tried to figure out who would manage the American company; well, in the end Sergio Marchionne took up this task as well; for years, now, he has been shuttling between Italy and the US; he sleeps in a plane, actually no longer shaves, lives only to resolve the company’s problems. Any holidays? With restraint.
Everybody makes his or her own choices, and there is only one life, true, but it is equally true that, in order to achieve ambitious objectives, in addition to creativity, vision and ambition you also need the stubborn will of penguin Alice, swift action and total commitment.
As I said, it is legitimate to prefer work at a steady pace, but we need to be aware that this may condition the results of those who, though with significant talent of their own, wish to stand out, and a sequel of the penguin story might be “ why is it that being so careful, bright and creative, I have problems succeeding?”.
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