NDP Book Shelf: Who Moved My Cheese?

Who Moved my Cheese?: An A-mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson

Book review by Dawn Whitehurst, MBA, LVN

I know too well that as young professionals enter the workforce, they are eager to take on the challenges of a new work environment and hope to gain insight into how to navigate the social and business hurdles they face daily.  I too found myself in this position almost twenty years ago when entering the world of nursing and realized how my resistance to change was holding me back professionally.  To my surprise, one of my nursing professors saw the struggle I was having and bought for me, Spencer Johnson’s bestselling motivational book, Who Moved My Cheese?

At first, I was skeptical, but Dr. Spencer Johnson’s 1998 publication of Who Moved My Cheese appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list and on the Publishers Weekly hardcover notification list.  I found the reviews intriguing considering they were submitted by Fortune 500 companies such as Apple, IBM, Mercedes Benz, and Lockheed Martin.  Johnson also wrote, “Yes” or “No”: The Guide to Better Decisions (1992) and co-authored the One Minute Manager series of books with management writer, Ken Blanchard.  If you’ve ever wished for an “easy button” to understanding and dealing with change and adaptability in your professional life, I think this book is exactly what you need!

In Who Moved My Cheese, four characters, Hem and Haw-little people, and Sniff and Scurry-mice, set out into a complicated maze (i.e. workplace, family, or community) to find what they consider to be their source of happiness, validation, and sustainability (their ‘Cheese’). Each character possesses a unique mentality when the search begins and, eventually, they all find what they are looking for at the end of a secluded corridor.  After countless trips to the hoard of Cheese, a couple of the characters begin to sense a change; however, the others lack this awareness and the mania ensues when they return to the location only to find that the Cheese has vanished! How each character handles this calamity provides invaluable insight for readers to apply to transitional times in their career as they search for their ‘Cheese’.

After realizing the Cheese has vanished, Sniff and Scurry with their simple brains and good instincts immediately begin to explore the maze for more Cheese.  Hem and Haw, with their complex brains filled with beliefs and emotions, feel entitled to the cheese but don’t wish to put in the effort to find it and have become afraid of the maze. Even Haw who sensed the change, eventually decided it was time to go out of the maze and search for new cheese rather than look around to see if it might just be in a different place within the maze. 

While the mice demonstrated the same drive every day, the little people rose out of bed a little later each day, dressed a little slower, and subsequently their ignorance grew to the consequences of finding the cheese.  Basically, the mice learned to see change in the beginning and acted upon this intuition whereas Hem and Haw lacked the motivation and only sought change in the end.

Professional transitions are difficult, but what this story can do for any individual is illuminate the bigger picture that is applicable to their given situation by using simplified language and providing a story with effortless flow.  It helps one understand the situation and thus more easily the solution which helps to transform one’s attitude towards change. 

At the time I received this gift, I was humbled by the message of the book and grateful for the insight, but thought it would be a one-time, lesson learned situation.  Oh, how wrong was I!  Since then, I’ve found myself in many professional and life transitions, and this book, which now resides in a place of easy access in my home, has become both a cathartic and reassuring reference. 

So, as a helpful resource during difficult life or professional transitions, remember a few of the lessons learned by Haw….

  • Movement in a new direction helps us find new Cheese;
  • Noticing small changes early helps us adapt to the bigger changes that are to come;
  • We must change when the change occurs; and
  • We must move beyond our fear to enjoy the Cheese.

Sniff and Scurry and Hem and Haw joined together as partners to search for their ‘Cheese’, and just like the characters in this fable, National Dental Placements can partner with you to help guide you through your transition to find YOUR ‘Cheese’!

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