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“Who Moved My Cheese?” by Johnson

In his book, “Who moved my cheese?” Johnson (1998) explores change by narrating the story of four characters searching for cheese. He also depicts how each of the four characters goes about finding cheese. All four characters live in a maze where they are searching for cheese. According to Johnson (1998), each of the four characters desires to get cheese. It has a different meaning to each of the four characters. When the book was published for the first time, it became instantly popular with men and women of all walks of life who were facing various forms of change in their lives. The book has since become popular with institutions across the globe. It provides readers with valuable lessons on anticipating, dealing with and adapting to change. Although the book does not give any reference to the different theoretical issues of change management, nonetheless, it is still a useful supplementary material in such courses as change management, organizational behavior and human resource management. The book could also be very useful in workshop/training sessions focusing on change and stress management.

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The four characters portrayed in this book are two people and two mice. Johnson (1998) has named the two little people “Haw” and “Hem”, while the mice are named “Scurry” and “Sniff”. The writer is using cheese and the maze metaphorically to represent something of value in our lives. For example, the maze could symbolize the workplace where the man spends most of his or her time pursuing their career goals. On the other hand, cheese could represent a career. As the story develops, one is able to relate to one or more of the four characters in the book. For example, some readers can identify themselves with Sniff who is gifted at sniffing out opportunities or change from a very early stage. I think the name Sniff has been used to signify his ability to sniff opportunities from a distance. Others can identify with Scurry who is very quick at taking actions when confronted with change. Hem is opposed to change, while Haw has embraced change in a timely manner after learning that the change could bring better opportunities than the ones that are currently available.

One would be tempted to assume that because mice have relatively smaller brains in comparison to those of humans, they are not as intelligent as humans. However, in reality, smaller brains also have fewer rules to follow and as such, are less complex. This means that smaller brains can make faster decisions. In the story, both Scurry and Sniff manage to make quick decisions in comparison with Haw and Hem.

When the four characters find the cheese at cheese station C, they react differently. This is the same way that different people react to situations in life. For Haw and Hem finding cheese was the epitome of security and happiness. Their levels of confidence also increase after finding cheese. However, it is quickly replaced by arrogance. I think the reaction of the two little people to change is similar to that of individuals who allow success and fame to their lives and in the process end up losing sight of what lies ahead. When things do not conform to their expectations, they start blaming others. Although Hem and Haw also represent people who are very good at analyzing situations, they are too slow to make decisions, on the other hand. Consequently, they get caught unaware of changes.

In contrast, Sniff and Scurry represent individuals who remain humble and simple even when they become famous or successful. Such people are able to hold their heads together and are always wary of mounting competition. They are also alive to the fact that their fortunes could change fast. Consequently, they do not sleep on their laurels but are always monitoring developments in their careers so that they can seize a new opening fast. Scurry and Sniff continue with their habits of sniffing out changes, even as they enjoy the rich supply of cheese. One day, Scurry and Sniff wake up to find that there is no more cheese at cheese station C. However, due to the fact that they have been preparing for such an eventuality, the Scurry and Sniff are not distressed by the sudden development of events. They put on their jogging shoes once more and begin to search for new cheese. The two mice were alert and prepared for the emergency and as such, they were receptive to it. On the contrary, Haw and Hem reacted in an astonishing way when they found that the cheese was gone. The two little people never stopped to ask who had placed the cheese in the maze. They even blame the unknown individual who moved the cheese for his unfair action. I can identify some of these traits in some of my colleagues at the workplace who are always quick to blame others for their downfall, even when it is very clear that they have done little to pursue success. Like the two little people, some of us spend a lot of time looking at the closed door not realizing that other doors are opened when one is closed and that all we need to do is to shift our focus to new opportunities in life.

Since Hem and Haw were already comfortable after finding the cheese, they failed to notice a change taking place around them. I have known people who have reacted the same way that Hem and Haw did when they got too comfortable in their formal employment only to lose their jobs when their respective organizations decided to downsize as a cost-cutting measure. Although the stock of cheese at cheese station C was dwindling, Hem and Haw were not monitoring the situation and when there was no more cheese, they were caught by surprise. On the other hand, Scurry and Sniff still maintained daily routines even after they had found cheese in abundance. They were always skeptical that it would get finished at one time. Therefore, Hem and Haw were always on the lookout for an alternative source of cheese.

Some of us are like the two little people. We only take action when the bad day arrives. People like Haw and Hem are slow to embrace change. They spend most of their time analyzing situations as opposed to taking action. After a lot of struggle, Haw discovers the new station N. By this time, the two mice, Scurry and Sniff, have already discovered it. People like Hem tend to dwell too much on the past when they had good fortunes not realizing that those good old days are long gone. In the business world, such people are either left out of business or soon become extinct. They cannot see, embrace or handle change. They are also not ready to accept any help extended to them. In the story, Hem does not accept the new cheese offered to him by Haw from the new cheese station N. Through experience, Hem has realised that change is inevitable and that he does not act quickly to change he is likely to become extinct. His fear has seen him venture an unfamiliar territory before he realizes he can only achieve his goal by overcoming this fear.

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As Haw is searching for his new supply of cheese, he learns an important lesson on dealing with change. Here, the author wishes to acknowledge the fact that it is important for individuals to keep a keen eye on and adjust to changes. In addition, the author wishes to point out that it is important to never get too comfortable with the current supply of cheese, and that you should always explore new locations where you can find another source of cheese. In other words, do not get too comfortable with your current job. You should always have an alternative plan in case your current engagement is severed.

Spencer Johnson’s book, “Who moved my cheese” depicts how different people handle change. The author has used four characters, Scurry, Sniff, Haw, and Hem to divulge insightful truths about change. All the four amazing characters live in a ‘Maze’ where they are looking for ‘Cheese’. Both the maze and cheese have been used metaphorically. Johnson (1998) uses the maze to depict the place where individuals go in search of fulfilling their dreams. On the other hand, cheese represents our desires as humans. ‘Cheese’ is meant to nourish us. Cheese is also meant to make us happy. Sniff represents people who have the ability to sniff change early, while Scurry represents people who are quick to take action when they face the change. On the other hand, Hem symbolizes people who resist and deny change out of fear that something worse might come out of it, while Haw represents people who learn through experience that change could indeed be a good thing.

I found the storyline of this book relatively straightforward, however, my opinion is that what really counts is the lesson that the book teaches us. Reading through the four characters, I realised that I share some character traits with Haw in the fact that I am not opposed to change per se. Like Hem, I had to abandon my comfort zone after realizing that if I did not take action, I would continue being caught unawares by change. The good thing is that I can still improve and be more like Scurry and Sniff. After reading Johnson’s book, I am now convinced that the only way that I can enjoy new cheese is by letting go of the old cheese. Change is inevitable and as such, the only way to make it in life is by confronting it. We can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand and hope not to encounter surprises in life. The book provides valuable lessons and as such, I highly recommend it.

Reference List

Johnson, S 1998, Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal With Change in Your Work and in Your Life, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York.

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