Who Moved My Cheese?
by Dr Spencer Johnson
Review for myHRbook club by Kate Bestow
|Who should read it?||Everyone! All of us experience change whether it is in our professional environment or personal life and the majority of us may find change unsettling and often uncomfortable. Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson explores how to deal with change by helping remove anxiety and fear and providing the knowledge and tools to deal with the change. This book would be particularly valuable in the work environment for employees who are about to experience change such as new technology and new ways of working and perhaps even more so for Managers to facilitate the change and act as a leader and role model for their employees.|
|What’s it good for?||Written in the style of a parable, the book tells the story of two mice and two little people in their hunt through a maze for cheese. Cheese is a metaphor for whatever it is that you are striving for; a better job, more money, a better relationship, while the maze represents the organisation we work in or the community we live in. While each of us may have a different understanding of what our cheese is and how to achieve it, the simple metaphor is easily applicable to all possibilities and sticks in your mind more easily than textbook theories.|
|What isn’t it good for?||Through its imaginary narrative, the story illustrates several Change Management models such as Lewin’s Three Stage Change Model and Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model. However, it does provide a rather general overview of the change process. We may need to consider how well these change models may be applied directly in the business world to organisations with different cultures. It may also be valuable to consider how much personalities and past experiences come in to play when accepting and adopting change.|
|How might it help you at work?||The book highlights that people react differently to change; some will adapt more easily and more quickly than others will. The four characters in the book represent possible reactions to change: Sniff (mouse) sniffs out change early and the opportunities that come with change, while Scurry (mouse) scurries quickly into action, hurrying to grasp new opportunities that Sniff has identified. The two mice represent the parts of us that are simple, authentic and intuitive. The two little people; Hem and Haw represent the very complexity of human behaviour, complete with feelings and emotions that may sometimes cloud our instincts (demonstrated by the mice). Hem immediately denies and resists change while Haw resists initially but gradually comes accepts the change and learns to adapt with time.
Haw’s behaviour effectively illustrates various stages of the Kubler Ross’s Change Curve below:
As you read the book, you may find yourself identifying with one or more of the characters in the book at different stages and begin to recognise your own behaviours reflected in the characters. By somewhat personifying the behaviours that we experience when facing change, it makes it easier for us to recognise them and pinpoint our status on the change curve. This in turn, helps us to accept and prepare for the change and guide us on the road to success.
|Best tip picked up from it?||There is always new cheese out there, even if you may not recognise it at the time and more often than not, it is better than the old cheese! When faced with change it may often make you feel safer and more secure to stick with what you know. Let’s take new technology as an example: many employees prefer the old technology as it is familiar and comforting. The idea of adopting new technology may make them anxious and afraid; they may lack confidence and as a result may not be able to see the many advantages of the new ways of working even if they tried. They begin to resist and protest the need for change. It is only once they have successfully completed the change process that employees can look back on the previous technology and now see the cracks, the mould on the cheese. They begin to embrace the change and discover new ways of working and new opportunities that they couldn’t see before.|
|How easy was it to read/ get into?||Very easy to read due to simple language and style. Important lessons learnt are highlighted through illustrations.|
|Anything else?||Perhaps my favourite part of this book is when Haw (one of the little people) eventually finds new cheese, reflects on his behaviour and laughs at himself. He compares his journey to that of the simple mice, not clouded by complex thoughts and emotions, not overthinking and analysing the situation. Haw teaches us that sometimes in professional and personal life alike we need to take a step back and laugh at ourselves so we can let go and move on.|
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