Who Moved My Cheese? Published on September 8, 1998, is a motivational business fable. The text describes change in one’s work and life, and four typical reactions to those changes by two mice and two “little people,” during their hunt for cheese.
Learn more about Spencer Johnson here.
Change. Just the idea, the mention of the word, leaves people uneasy. I know for me it does.
Learning to manage change is a vital aspect to anyone entering the professional world, because whether we like it or not, nothing is certain in a constantly growing and innovative field. And that’s a good thing. Without change, we would still be stuck in the dark ages. If we all just steeled ourselves against change, electricity would have never been accepted as a modern invention. Neither would the radio, the television or the automobile.
But why does change affect each of us so? It’s because of fear, fear of the unknown.
“If you do not change, you can become extinct.”
Who Moved My Cheese? written by Dr. Spencer Johnson teaches us how to deal with change, especially the unexpected kind. The book tells the story of two mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two Littlepeople, Hem and Haw. These four characters all live in the “Maze” where they look for their “Cheese.” One day, they each return to their stockpile to find that their supply of Cheese is gone.
Sniff and Scurry quickly move on to explore the rest of the Maze, looking for another supply.
Hem and Haw, on the other hand, wait. They speak about the unfairness of their Cheese missing, and assume someone must have moved it. They are certain that whoever this is will but it back.
In this story, the Maze refers to our family, community or workplace. The Cheese is what each of us as individual looks to get out of life, whether this is money, achievement or successful relationships, it is a metaphor for what makes us happy.
Johnson, who has 13 New York Times best sellers, is known for writing about complex subjects and explaining them in simple ways. He holds true to that notion with Who Moved My Cheese?
About the Writer
Baillee Furst is an Administrative and Communications Intern at Your Clear Next Step. She helps with our outreach to young professionals through her writing for our website. Outside of this, she helps with final proofing and data analysis. Baillee is a sophomore at Simpson College, majoring in English and Public relations.
Who Moved The Cheese?
“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
This was my first real read in the genre of professional development, and going in, I had some expectations. I was particularly interested to learn about change, and how this book directed us as individuals to approach it. I wanted to see how the four different characters handled change, and to see which I assigned myself to be the most like.
From researching about the book beforehand, I was also interested to see if it would frustrate me. The approach is so simple, that even in the foreword of the book, it warns that some feel the story is told in a way an elementary teacher would speak to a student. It was also said that some were frustrated not with the tone, but because the idea was as easy to grasp that they were ashamed of themselves for not thinking of it sooner.
I was not on either sides of this, but I did feel like I learned a lot from the short story, about myself as I reflected off of the characters, and at change in general.
While the tale was not exactly what I expected, I still found it to be very helpful. It wasn’t tailored to each individual character, but encouraged everyone to have a similar approach to change, and that is to approach it without fear.
While I do not necessarily believe that all change is positive, I think the story sheds a light on how a lot of things can be spun in that direction. For example, losing your job does not seem incredibly favorable, but being sent back out into an unfamiliar Maze can help us as individuals to find an uncharted space to explore that has an abundance of Cheese.
“When you stop being afraid, you feel good!”
Another interesting lesson I learned, though it was briefly discussed, was the difference between activity and productivity. We as people can spend as much time as we wish mulling around the same area in the Maze searching for something we know we won’t find, and declare ourselves active, but this is not the same thing as actually accomplishing something, or being productive.
At Your Clear Next Step, there is a very clear focus on productivity rather than activity. Time and time again, it’s said that we are good stewards of every dollar and every minute. In order to fulfill this promise, YCNS has to be on top of things, and able to manage and handle change at a moments notice, saving us, as well as our customers time, while also helping them get ahead of the pack to find the best supply of Cheese they can, before others begin looking.
I highly recommend this book to any adult. Not only is it applicable to those working in a business environment, but also can be applied in relationships.
Leadership or management teams at any company should make sure to read this. Being able to realize how important change is, and how to categorize employees is important to be able to grow and thrive in today’s world.
“Noticing small changes early helps you adapt to the bigger changes that are to come.”