You are probably familiar with the book: “Who Moved My Cheese?”, which has been around for around 20 years now. However, its message had stood the test of time because people get as much out of it now as they did – perhaps even more so.
If you are unfamiliar with the book, you will probably wonder what this is all about and how it relates to you as a business owner and / or leader?
“Who Moved My Cheese?” (by Dr Spenser Johnson) is a simple parable that reveals profound truths about us human beings. It is an amusing and enlightening story of four characters who live in a maze and look for cheese to nourish them and make them happy.
Cheese is a metaphor for what you want to have in life – whether it is a good job, a loving relationship, money or a possession, health, peace of mind, or whatever.
The 4 characters in the book are: –
2 mice …
SNIFF – who sniffs out change early.
SCURRY – who scurries into action.
2 ‘little people’ …
HEM – who denies and resists change as he fears it will lead to something worse.
HAW – who learns to adapt in time when he sees changing can lead to something better.
The mice; Sniff and Scurry, possess simple brains and good instinct and they search for a hard nibbling cheese that they light – as mice often do.
Hem and Haw use their complex brains filled with many beliefs and emotions to search for a very different kind of cheese with a capital ‘C’ which they believe will make them feel happy and successful.
They all had this in common and every day, they would put on their jogging suits and running shoes, leave their homes and race to the maze looking for their favourite cheese!
Remembering that “Cheese” is a metaphor for what you want to have in life – whether it’s a good job, a loving relationship, money, a possession, health, peace of mind, or whatever.
And it makes us think about how we actually adapt to change and how our teams adapt (if we have them) and how to help them to adapt and embrace change.
Change is happening everywhere and we will do better when we can adjust to it quickly!
Here’s an example …
It was suggested to a company, who was selling their encyclopaedia as a set of more than 20 books, that they should put their whole encyclopaedia on a single computer disc and sell it for a fraction of the cost. This would be easier to update, it would cost much less to manufacture and so many more people could have access it. However, they all resisted.
Why did they resist?
Because they believed then that the backbone of their business was their large sales force who called on people door-to-door. Their sales force depended on the large commissions they earned from the high price of their product and had been doing this successfully for a long time and thought it would go on forever.
But they didn’t notice that they needed to change what had once been working and that was their only means of income and so they hung on to it.
When one of their competitors did change, their sales plummeted and of course, other technological changes have been happening ever since and continue to evolve.
When people never change, they will pray pay a price for it eventually. Sometimes they feel entitled to their ‘cheese’ and feel like victims when it’s taken away and they blame others. And they get so much more stressed than the people who move on and adapt.
The question is what do we need to let go off and what do we need to move on to?
Our basic values may not change – at the same time, we know that we would be much better off to move with the cheese a lot sooner.
Sometimes business owners are managing when they need to be leading.
And in leading, their job is to paint a picture of a vision they all want to pursue so they can all enjoy changing and succeeding.
And all the Sniffs, the Scurry’s, Hems and Haws need to be treated differently …
The Sniffs could sniff out that changes in the marketplace can help to update the corporate Vision and be encouraged to identify how the changes could result in new products and services that their customers would want.
The Scurries might like to get things done so they are encouraged to take actions based on the new corporate Vision. They probably need to be monitored, so they don’t scoot off in the wrong direction though and be rewarded for actions that brought the company new ‘cheese’. They will enjoy working in a company that values action and results.
Hems are unfortunately often the anchors that slow you down as they are either too comfortable or too afraid to change. Some of the Hems only change when they see the sensible vision that shows them how changing would work to their advantage.
They want to work in a place that is safe and any change needs to make sense to them and increase their sense of security. When they realise that the real danger is in not changing, some of them will change and do well. And the Vision can help you to turn many of your Hems into Haws.
If it comes down to it the Hems who do not want to change and still resist, you may just have to let them go – because if you don’t, there is a real danger that things will not change and your business would be in trouble. Of course, nobody wants to have to do that and we hope that we can help them to adapt to change.
Even Hems can sometimes see the advantage of changing, such as the advantage of keeping their jobs or even getting a good pay rise. The powerful part is when they can recognise their fear and go on to paint a picture in their mind of enjoying the new cheese. It will make change less fearful and more enjoyable and eventually they get a better deal.
Haws – in reality, Haws are initially hesitant and then they are open minded enough to learn something new, act differently and adapt in time to help you to succeed. They expect change and actively look for it, and because they understand human nature, they can help you to paint a realistic vision of new ‘cheese’ that makes good sense to pretty much everybody.
Haws like to work in an organisation that gives people that confidence and the tools to change. They will help you to keep your sense of humour as you go after your new ‘cheese’.
When you can see a new ‘cheese’ / Vision that you really like and want to go after, imagine yourself enjoying it – it lightens everything up. When you see how it can improve things, you / your team get more interested in making the change happen.
Sometimes we have to let go of old cheese that is of no value. And the old cheese can just be an old behaviour that we really need to let go off and then move on to a better way of thinking and acting.
Repeating the same behaviour will just get you the same results.
When people are afraid of change they resist it. Instead of waiting for things to change for the better, we have to change the way we are being.
Once we realise all this, change really can lead us to a new and better place. Even though we may be afraid it won’t at the time, we will see the benefits eventually.
So, involve people in the change. In short;
“A change imposed is a change opposed”
But when the ‘cheese’ story is shared, it literally changes everything because it helps people to change the way they look at change. It helps everyone laugh, or at least smile, at their old fears and want to move on.
You don’t want to let your business fail, to start letting people go or closing your business. You want to help everybody to see things differently and eventually cope better.
Remember; there is new cheese out there just waiting to be found!
So, instead of worrying about the cheese being moved, get out there and look for the new cheese! it saves a lot of time and stress.
Before long people who have been resisting change see the advantage of changing and even help to bring it about.
The reason people want to stay the same is because they believe that change will be bad for them.
And even for those who don’t really feel that way, they too often agree in order to fit in. And that is the sort of Peer Pressure that fights change in any organisation.
Once people are aware of the 4 characters, the peer pressure changes because nobody wants to look like Hem!
So, move with the cheese – and enjoy it!
You can download a copy of the book HERE if you would like it – it’s a tiny book on a huge topic and takes just one hour to read!
If you haven’t already, I invite you to book your FREE CLARITY SESSION with me HERE and we can meet via Zoom or Skype.