As the title suggests, ‘Who moved my cheese’ is essentially a story about two mice and two small people who depended on cheese for survival but eventually realized that their cheese had been moved. The characters reacted differently to that occurrence and their behavior can be interpreted in life’s journey or the business arena.
Description of the book and how it relates to business
Even though the book is merely ninety-four pages long, there are valuable business lessons or life lessons that can be deduced from this volume. The latter book is divided into three phases with the first being a forward sent by Blanchard Kenneth; a co-writer of another self-help book written together with Spencer Johnson.
The heart of the story (which is found in the second section of the book) revolves around two small people known as Hem and Haw and two mice called Sniff and Scurry. The names of these mice are reflective of their characters as will be seen later. The four characters live inside a maze that contains cheese and spends almost all their time looking for this cheese. One day, the little people and the mice stumble upon a cheese station in the maze called station C that seems to be full of cheese. This station is able to meet their daily needs sufficiently and the human beings begin getting complacent about its availability. On the other hand, Sniff and Scurry (as their name suggests) are never content about this abundant cheese as they keep smelling the cheese and checking on its quality in order to find out if there are any changes in it.
One day, station C runs out of cheese; Sniff and Scurry had expected this change because the smell of the cheese had changed and so had its quality. They put on their running shoes and immediately embark on a cheese-finding journey. On the other hand, Hem and Haw exhibit totally different behavior. They are annoyed that their cheese has gone and they begin to think that someone may have taken away their cheese. According to them, this is a violation of their rights because they feel entitled to all the cheese within station C. They spend their time feeling sorry for themselves while their counterparts are busy looking for new cheese in other parts of the maze. Fear grips the pair as they are not sure about what they will find in the maze if they choose to get out.
With time, Haw decides to follow the mice’s pathways and wears his running shoes to look for cheese. Hem is not interested in joining him and therefore keeps sulking. Haw goes through the maze; at first, he finds cheese that is only sufficient to feed him for a little while but as he continues into the maze, he eventually stumbles into a collection of cheese that is even larger than the one that had sustained them in station C.
After this adventure, Haw draws important lessons that he states as he moves on. First he learns that when one holds on to old beliefs, then this can impede one’s ability to find new cheese. (Johnson 64) Additionally, he realizes that the world has no place for static people since an inability to change can cause one to become distinct. Haw claims that in order to find new cheese, one must be ready to move in a different direction.
At the end of the journey, Haw makes a summary of what he has learned about change where he states the following about change; it happens, it should be anticipated, it should be monitored, one should adapt easily to it, one should embrace and enjoy change and it should be part of one’s life i.e. that life’s only constant is change itself.
The third part of the book is a summary of the interpretations made by the people listening to the ‘who moved my cheese story’ within a seminar. Most of them claim that these lessons are quote applicable within their day to day relationships.
There are various ways in which one can interpret the messages in this book. First, one can see that human beings find it hard to embrace change; the natural tendency is to get gobbled down in traditions, fear and old beliefs. Similarly, the same thing occurs within organizations, most employees, managers, and shareholders may be complacent with their current circumstances and their beliefs and traditions often hamper their ability to move forward.
As the author points out, cheese symbolizes any kind of goal that an organization or a person may have i.e. a relationship, money, health, a job or peace. In the initial parts of the story, the author points out that Scurry and Sniff frequently checked on the cheese to find out if it was okay while their counterparts were doing nothing about it. One would have expected that human beings (with complex minds) would have easily sensed these changes. However, this was not the case and it eventually led to the little people’s adversities. Likewise, the same thing can be said of organizations. Those companies that frequently watch out for change by analyzing their business environment can survive comfortably when the change finally occurs. Those organizations that grow accustomed to their comfort zones may be thrown off balance and may not weather the storm when it finally comes. No company should feel that it is entitled to any position because change is inevitable.
Companies can draw a lot of lessons from the approach that these four characters take with regard to the lost cheese. A company’s approach to business can define what occurs to them when ‘cheese’ or a business opportunity runs out. If one becomes too dependent on a certain business model or business aspect, then chances are that one’s ability to survive after that business model has expired is low. (Johnson 46)
Most employees or members are very uncomfortable around the subject of change. Like Haw and Hem, they tend to believe that it is something that they cannot control thus leading to fear. However, companies need to adopt the attitude taken up by the mice because they accepted change as being inevitable. Perhaps the most important issue about change within organizations is not just what crops up when the change has occurred but what needs to be done prior to the change. Businesses need to make their members get ready for change and not just teach them how to deal with it when it occurs.
Overly, it can be said that there are three major obstacles that can come in the way of making companies move forward; these include complacence or reluctance to change, fear of unknown issues, and fear of failure. If managers and organizations can accept these facts, then they can easily modify their behavior to fit in the dynamic business arena. There are tremendous benefits that emanate from dealing with these three obstacles and they can make the difference between performers and non-performers in any organization.
‘Who moved my cheese’ may deceive its readers into thinking that it is too simple for the business arena. However, its metaphors and lessons are highly valuable to organizations as it addresses all the dynamics that a company has to deal with prior, during and after the change. The author believes that individuals need to think of what they need to achieve, anticipate change and then accept the journey of change as part of the business process.
Johnson, Spencer. (1998). Who moved my cheese. New York: Putnam Sons Publishers.