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Are growlers & bergy bits getting you down?

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

Growlers and bergy bits sound like two mythical characters out of Lewis Carroll’s Jabbawocky. However, I can assure you that they are very real and have the potential to be highly destructive.

So what are they?

When an iceberg starts to melt, the snowy cap on the top can melt away and cause the iceberg to roll onto its side. This, in turn, can result in the flat part of the iceberg floating below the waterline and making the iceberg hard to see.

As the structure of the iceberg weakens, pieces known as growlers and bergy bits start to break-off and float below the water’s surface around the iceberg. While they are smaller than the iceberg, these objects are not to be underestimated. Growlers can weigh up to 240 tons and the bergy bits (...can you believe that is their official name?) can weigh over 5000 tons. Both are capable of damaging or sinking ships. 

In your business, a big problem is a bit like an iceberg. What you see are the symptoms that appear on the surface. The customer complaints, the high staff attrition rates and the lower than expected performance numbers.

Just like an iceberg, the impacts of a big business problem are unlikely to be restricted to the area in which the problem started.

Every big problem has far-reaching secondary consequences that sit below the surface and make everything harder, slower and less effective.

These are the growlers and bergy bits of the problem. They are the consequences that make everything just that little bit harder.

When you think about your own business, does it have growlers and bergy bits floating beneath the surface? Do things feel a lot harder than they should? If so, how is that impacting your success?

Most importantly, what can you do about them? 

Over the years, one of the common reasons clients have given for leaving their big problem until it had enveloped every aspect of their business, was that they felt overwhelmed by it. It was too big and too complex and so they just didn’t know where to start.

“There are no big problems, just lots of little problems” ~ Henry Ford

At the end of the day, that ‘iceberg’ problem in your business is just a collection of smaller ones. Not only that, the growlers and bergy bits are probably making it feel bigger than it is.

The secret to finding a solution is to see it as a collection of solvable problems, instead of an amorphous and destructive mass that you can do nothing about.

Remember that solving big problems requires quality conversations between you and your leaders. Trying to fit them into the cracks between wall-to-wall meetings, will drive a problem further into your business. It also increases the risk of solving the symptom rather than the problem.

The other thing you can do is to make sure you get the right kind of help. By that, I don’t mean bring in an expert in your sector, because I reckon your business has got plenty of experts. If that is the case, you don’t need someone to tell you what to do. You need someone who can give you and your team space and structure to think the problem through and develop a way forward together.

About the author

Kate Christiansen helps leaders, teams and organisations to get unstuck. She can provide the space & structure you and your team need, to define, dismantle and deal with that pervasive, paralysing problem. Kate is an award-winning author, keynote speaker & facilitator. Discover more about Kate's Smart Start Program or her Collaboraction Methodology here. Alternatively, contact her directly on


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