From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’
Not long ago, Utility Business Media Inc. published a book I wrote: “Frontline Leadership – The Hurdle.” During the research and writing process, I read a lot of books and want to share highlights from some of my favorites. This article will focus on the bestselling book “Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life” by Spencer Johnson, M.D. I hope you find the article useful, and I also hope it inspires you to read both “Who Moved My Cheese?” and my book as part of your continuing personal and professional development.
“Who Moved My Cheese?” is a parable about four characters living in a maze and looking for cheese. Two of the characters are mice named Sniff and Scurry; the other two are Littlepeople named Hem and Haw. Cheese represents what you have and want in your personal and professional lives. The maze is where you look for what you want, often at work and home.
In the parable, the four characters face the same change and respond to it in different ways. One character, in an effort to find his way and communicate with his friend, leaves handwriting on the wall throughout the maze. In that handwriting are powerful lessons we can learn about dealing with change in ways that reduce stress and increase success. Applying those lessons and the wisdom contained throughout the book will give you more metaphorical cheese.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the four characters:
- Sniff: A mouse who sniffs out changes early.
- Scurry: This mouse scurries into action.
- Hem: A Littleperson who completely denies and resists change because of fear.
- Haw: This Littleperson initially resists change and learns to adapt.
Early in the book, all four characters find cheese at the end of a corridor in Cheese Station C. All four of them go there every morning to enjoy their cheese, although they have no idea where it came from. Then the fateful day arrives when they show up and there is no cheese left.
Sniff and Scurry have been arriving at Cheese Station C early each morning and inspecting it. They have noticed the cheese supply getting lower, so they aren’t surprised. As a matter of fact, they have their jogging shoes tied around their necks and are ready to go. Sniff sniffs for cheese and Scurry runs ahead in the direction Sniff points out to him. They find new and better cheese at Cheese Station N.
The Littlepeople don’t handle the loss of their cheese well and continue going to Cheese Station C each morning, hoping for the cheese they feel they are entitled to. Time passes and Haw decides to leave and search the maze. After he learns to laugh at himself, he writes on the wall as he makes his way through the maze and arrives at Cheese Station N. Hem never leaves Cheese Station C.
The Handwriting on the Wall
At Cheese Station N, Haw writes a summary of what he has learned and draws a piece of cheese around it. His handwriting on the wall reads:
- Change happens: They keep moving the cheese.
- Anticipate change: Get ready for the cheese to move.
- Monitor change: Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old.
- Adapt to change quickly: The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese.
- Change: Move with the cheese.
- Enjoy change: Savor the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese.
- Be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again and again: They keep moving the cheese.
There is a piece of all four characters in each of us. Reading Haw’s handwriting on the walls of the maze and its summation at Cheese Station N teaches us invaluable lessons about dealing with change. Some of those lessons include: change will happen; change can be predicted; we become extinct if we don’t change; and change can lead to better things.
The book concludes with some friends discussing the parable. They talk about getting outside their comfort zones and how they will look for new cheese in their lives. They also mention that a change imposed is a change opposed, and one of them proposes that old cheese represents behaviors and actions he needs to change. Another proposes that it is better to recognize the need for change and initiate it rather than having to react to it.
Change happens and will continue to happen. It’s a part of everyday life and culture. Your cheese will move. How will you respond to it? This book takes about an hour to read and will help you answer that question. Learn to deal with change and you’ll get more cheese. As it says on the front cover of my copy, this book is a gem – small and valuable. Read it, apply its wisdom and go get your cheese.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and that it has inspired you to read and apply Dr. Johnson’s book and mine. Join me January 11 for a complimentary webinar on this topic. I look forward to seeing you there.
About the Author: David McPeak, CUSP, CIT, CHST, CSP, CSSM, is the director of professional development for Utility Business Media’s Incident Prevention Institute (https://ip-institute.com) and the author of “Frontline Leadership – The Hurdle” and “Frontline Incident Prevention – The Hurdle.” He has extensive experience and expertise in leadership, human performance, safety and operations. McPeak is passionate about personal and professional development and believes that intrapersonal and interpersonal skills are key to success. He also is an advanced certified practitioner in DISC, emotional intelligence, the Hartman Value Profile, learning styles and motivators.
About Frontline Fundamentals: Frontline Fundamentals topics are derived from the Incident Prevention Institute’s popular Frontline training program (https://frontlineutilityleader.com). Frontline covers critical knowledge, skills and abilities for utility leaders and aligns with the Certified Utility Safety Professional exam blueprint.
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