Book Review

That’s not how we do it here – John Kotter

Management books are useful they offer us mortals an opportunity to learn and implement from success and failures of others. Most of the researchers who write these books tend to make them prescriptive, leaving little scope for assimilation by the reader based on their individual experiences. Reading these books can be tiring too. That’s why I like Autobiographies and Biographies which makes it easy for us to read a story and get some learning on the way.

For last few months, I have been studying on Change Management. Change is not easy. Change in organisations don’t happen overnight, they require careful planning, collective execution and nurturing. I have shared in this short video my earliest experience of getting a change done in an organisation. When it comes to Change Management, we have to start with the authority on the subject Dr.John Kotter, professor emeritus at Harvard Business School. Luckily, I got initiated to his works with his small book “THAT’S NOT HOW WE DO IT HERE“. Written by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber the book is an enjoyable read due to its fable format. The 137 pages narrate the story of a Meerkats (mongoose family) clan living in Kalahari desert in Botswana.

The story starts with Nadia, the creative one who is interviewing for the role of “Older Sister”, an important role and if selected she will be teaching puppies what they will need to know to be adults in the clan. To qualify for the role, Nadia has to memorise all the twenty-five rules from the rulebook. Sample these rules “Never leave the puppies alone” and “Start and end each day with a sand shower”. The rules are written by “Older Sisters and Brothers Rules and Procedures Group”. Nadia’s clan owed their success due to such strong processes and discipline that they have grown to over one hundred and fifty. To prepare better for the interview Nadia approaches her older brother Nicholas, who is the Head of Guards for the clan and asks him to explain how the hierarchy of the clan works. Nicholas explains that every clan starts with two Alphas a male and a female at the top, followed by family chiefs who oversee groups of twenty to thirty, along with Head of Burrows and Head of Guards.

Courtesy: THAT’S NOT HOW WE DO IT HERE by Dr. John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber

Everything is going well in the clan when suddenly Vultures who hitherto were scavengers have started hunting on Meerkats. Due to this sudden change in behaviour, the clan was losing Meerkats at an alarming rate. A young guard Ayo comes up with an idea to give early warning on vulture attacks, it was to build watch post on top of trees. Nicholas immediately shoots the idea down saying it’s not the time to experiment. Dejected on the rigidity in the clan Ayo & Nadia goes out in search of other clans to observe and learn their practices. They find a new clan founded by a young leader Lena, who is following a different management style and is able to fend off vulture attacks. Kotter continues on what was Lena’s clan doing differently, how Nadia discovers a perfect clan organisation model.

Courtesy: THAT’S NOT HOW WE DO IT HERE by Dr. John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber

At the end of the book, if you wish to continue reading Kotter offers his matrix for Leadership vs Management and the best-of-both-worlds organisation that Nadia discovers in her journey across Kalahari desert.

Even if you don’t want to know about Change Management, still you will enjoy the story of the Meerkats and their adventure. I like it so much, the book has become my gift of choice I give to my friends.