Who Moved My Cheese?:
An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life

Reviewed by: 
Spencer Johnson & Kenneth Blanchard (Foreword)
Putnam Publishing Group
Alistair Schofield, Managing Director, Extensor Limited

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Who Moved My Cheese gets Extensor’s maximum 5 Star rating because, like many great books, it conveys a simple yet profound message but, unlike far too many management books, it puts across in a clear and succinct way which means that the whole book can be read in under an hour. Perhaps this is not surprising as the author also co-authored the bestselling book ‘The One Minute Manger’.

The book begins by describing how a group of former classmates at a reunion enter into a conversation around how the world has changed since they were at school together. It is at this point that one of the group tells the story of “Who Moved My Cheese?”

The story is a metaphor for the way change occurs, the way different people react and the lessons that can be learned.

The characters in the story are two mice, called Sniff and Scurry and two little people called Haw and Hem. They all live on the edge of a maze, in which they find their food – cheese!

Every day they enter the maze in search of cheese. The mice, only being simple creatures, race into the maze and search for cheese wherever they can find it. But Haw and Hem, being more intelligent, have learned where the cheese is located and so can be more relaxed as they saunter into the maze each day.

As a result, the little people come to rely upon the cheese being in the same place. They become confident that the way the world is, is the way it will always be. Confidence gradually turns into complacency and they do not notice when the pile of cheese is gradually getting older and smaller, until one day the cheese is gone.

For the mice, this change in circumstances does not pose a problem as they simply search elsewhere in the maze, but for Haw and Hem, searching new areas of the maze is filled with all sorts of new fears. While Haw eventually learns to overcome his fear and accept change, Hem remains in a state of denial, waiting for the world to return to the way it was previously and refusing to accept that that was simply not going to happen.

The point is that we can all too easily be seduced into believing that tomorrow will be just like today and not notice that the world is changing around us. For example, a company may see its turnover declining, but attribute it to transitory factors such as unseasonably warm weather, the price of oil or interest rates, when the reality is that their customers are moving on and they are falling further and further behind their competitors. When the reality hits home, it may be too late to save the business.

The book goes on to give a very simple explanation of how we should keep up to date with the changes occurring around us, to ‘keep smelling the cheese’ and, when major change needs to occur, how we should accept the inevitability of change and treat it is an opportunity to seek new and better opportunities.

At the end of the book, the former classmates discuss the application of the story to their own real-world lives and situations in order to help the reader translate the metaphorical story into a more practical setting.

The net result is a book of great simplicity but profound wisdom that I would recommend to everyone.

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