How to avoid the Titanic effect here in 2017!

I believe that leaders at all levels need to ensure positive relationships within the workplace! When they work well, such relationships enable much more productive and useful work, more fulfilling workplaces, and better outcomes for both staff and clients.

When those relationships are not functioning well, it is because people overlooked one critical element – the organisational iceberg! Failing to do so has the equivalent effect of the iceberg and the Titanic; change of catastrophic proportions! Occasionally, it is sudden and drastic; more often it is, however, slow and insidious, though the end results are no less tragic.

In this post, I suggest what might be coming in 2017, describe how a redundant mindset might impact on changes in 2017 of any nature,  explore what is the organisational iceberg at the root of an outdated mindset, and offer some thoughts on what you might do about it!

What might be coming in 2017?

Experience tells me that inevitably in 2017, you will encounter a change or changes of one description or another, transformational or otherwise. It is the one inevitable occurrence I might predict in what is likely to be a turbulent year, economically, socially and politically.

And yet, my years of experience tell me that people are liable to approach that change, or indeed any changes through the year, with the same redundant mindset.

What impact does this disastrous mindset have?

That mentality is rooted in managers’ beliefs that to make sound change happen, you need to deal with the ‘structural’ elements of change … and not the organisational underpinning that is relationships.  So, they spend greater time looking at products and services, hierarchies, technologies, job descriptions, roles and responsibilities, procedures, policies – tangible things that are easily grasped and wrestled with to make so-called improvements.

However, once implemented, it was regularly my personal experience that some weeks or even months later, senior staff would voice concerns as to the lack of impact the changes had brought about.

So back to the drawing board executives would go and chart some tweaks and fine-tuning and try again! On and on this cycle would revolve with what ultimate effect? In general, little real change and certainly not embedded change of the order sought in the first instance! Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic springs to mind!

What is the organisational iceberg?

For me, and many colleagues around me, we mainly experienced dismay, disillusionment and despair, especially as we were not often engaged in the design of the process. It was done to us rather than with us. More subtly, however, it appeared that senior managers could not or chose not to see the need to harness the power of positive relationships.

Then I discovered the concept of the organisational iceberg!

It was mid-way through my career as a youth worker that I came across a perspective that helped me to understand this apparently ‘lemming-like’ behaviour. I found it in one of my favourite management books, entitled ‘Managing Change and making it stick’!* It was here that Roger Plant introduced me to the concept of the ‘organisational iceberg’, which enabled me to begin to reflect seriously on the nature of change and the power of positive relationships.

I found it in one of my favourite management books, entitled ‘Managing Change and making it stick’! It was here that Roger Plant introduced me to the concept of the ‘organisational iceberg’, which enabled me to begin to reflect seriously on the nature of change and the power of positive relationships and to adapt my behaviour.


I reproduce Plant’s drawing opposite. I think it is straightforward, though graphic.

His view, simply put, was that change scenarios too often focused on the bit of the iceberg that was visible – the structural stuff I mentioned earlier – as this was relatively easy to manage.

Often ignored were the things that really make organisations work – sometimes known as the ‘soft stuff’, although, frankly, in all my experience I have found it the hardest stuff to deal with! He included many organisational aspects within his view of the ‘soft stuff’ – cultural norms, habits, loyalties, personal relationships, motivation and commitments, moral stances, beliefs and values, hopes and fears, friendships, feelings and moods, amongst many other elements.

He argued, and I strongly support his view, that by failing to grasp this ‘hidden’ mass of the iceberg, any change process was almost inevitably doomed to failure from the outset.

What does this mean for you?

I have seen failure to address relationships and change at first hand on too many occasions! Both local and central government have been guilty of this; more painfully so at a local level. I have experienced it in the voluntary sector and the private sector. Nowhere is immune from the impact of this offensive mindset.

What needs emphasising is that change impacts on people directly; it affects the human condition and the myriad feelings, attitudes, circumstances and opinions that this brings! Failure to recognise and work with the hidden elements breaks trust. Destroying trust is a surefire way to send you, your team and your organisation into a negative downward spiral, from which recovery will be long and painful, if at all possible.

So recognising the concept and how it works in your circumstances makes for a good start. Co-creating your vision with your team for 2017 will address it even better. Take it up a notch by even jointly agreeing on collaborative goals, targets and objectives for the year.

Then write them down, but not too many, say six or seven that are essential, and regularly and consistently review and evaluate them!

When writing your goals, think SMARTER – Specific, Meaningful, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound, Evaluate and Re-adjust! I have used this approach for some years, and it works!

[Tweet “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. – Maya Angelou”]

Most importantly, you need to talk to your people, take action on what you hear, and explain when and why you cannot take action. I’m not saying that you will achieve complete change this way, but I do believe you will carry your team with you wherever that change takes you!

If you would like to find out more about how I can support you in building positive change for yourself, your team or your organisation, please just ask!

Ring 07958 765972 now for a free consultation or write to me at for further details!

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