“Who Moved My Cheese?” is a story about change and how people deal with it. This book is written by Spencer Johnson, MD who is the co-author of the “One Minute Manager,” and he once again uses a parable style story to get his message across. The main characters in this story are two little mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two little people, Hem and Haw. The “Cheese” is a metaphor for whatever we are looking for in life. The mice are simple and instinctive, and when faced with a diminishing supply of cheese, the will quickly chase around and through trial and error seek to find more. However, the little people are more complex and contemplative, and when they are faced with a loss, they will be less inclined to face reality and move on to find more. In the end, they realize some basic truths about change, or what Spencer Johnson calls “the handwriting on the wall”:
Change Happens – They keep moving the Cheese. Change is a part of life. No matter how well off you are, you must realize that we live in a dynamic world. Things happen. The stock market goes up, but it also goes down. You do a good job at work, but in a slow economy, you can get fired through no fault of your own.
Anticipate Change – Get ready for the Cheese to move. The one thing that you can always count on is that change happens all around us, all the time. Thus, you need to anticipate that things will be changing often beyond your ability to control it.
Monitor Change – Smell the Cheese often so you know when it is getting old. As change happens, there are usually leading indicators. If you are paying attention, you will be able to spot changes in your environment before it happens. So, when things are slowing down at work, it might signal a reduction in force. If you are monitoring your environment, you will not be surprised.
Adapt to Change quickly – The quicker you let go of old Cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new Cheese. If the Cheese starts to smell and you know change is coming, then get ready to make your move. Don’t fret over your loss, but get onto the next new thing. When faced with a loss of food, it doesn’t take the mice too long to start chasing around to look for a new food supply. They adapt quickly and instinctively.
Change – Move with the Cheese. Embrace change. Don’t let your beliefs hold you back. You just have to let go, and accept change. If you live in the past, you can’t move ahead. If you lost your job, don’t waste a lot of time trying to place blame on yourself or others, especially if it is due to the weak economy. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the way it is when things slow down.
Enjoy Change – Savor the adventure and enjoy the taste of new Cheese. This is easier said than done for most of us. Change can be hard, but it is also possible to look at change as an opportunity. If you find yourself out of work, it might be time to switch careers, learn a new skill, or move to across country. This may be not only hard to do, but also not what you would have preferred to do; however, when faced with the need to change, try to make the best of it. In most cases, you will find a new job or a new opportunity where you can once again enjoy things – the “new Cheese.”
Thus, the story of “Who Moved My Cheese?” offers some serious advice for dealing with change even though the story itself is rather simple, perhaps even silly. The fact is that we all run through the “maze” of life’s twists and turns to try to get what we want. Even if we have been lucky enough to get what we want, the lesson is clear: Change is a part of life, and don’t get too complacent. If you don’t stay on top of things, you can find yourself looking for some “new Cheese” even if you aren’t ready to do so. Keep your shoes on, don’t get too comfortable, and get ready to look for more Cheese.