Orrin Woodward LIFE Leadership Team

Winner of the 2011 Independent Association of Business Top Leader Award; Orrin Woodward shares his leadership secrets.

Who Moved My Cheese? – Learning to Thrive on Change

Posted by Orrin Woodward on May 3, 2008

I recommend everyone read the top selling book – Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson.  Although the story line is simple – there are many profound lessons that apply to life and business.  How do you handle change?  Are you still searching for the cheese where it used to be?  Are you going to where the cheese is today?  God Bless, Orrin Woodward


In the turbulent corporate world it is important to anticipate, recognize, and understand change.  Who Moved My Cheese? is a book which describes how to deal with change. 


Who Moved my Cheese? is a story about how two mice and two little men look for cheese in a maze. The cheese pictures what we want to have in life, whether it is a small income or a life of luxury.  The maze pictures where we spend our time looking for what we want.  Some people are content with what they have and resist change, while others are constantly looking for new opportunities.


The mice are named Sniff and Scurry.  Sniff sniffs out changes early and Scurry scurries into action.  The two little men in the parable are Hem and Haw.  Hem denies and resists change because he fears that something worse will happen.  Haw learns to adapt in time when he sees that change can lead to something better.  Throughout the book these four characters search and jog through the maze, occasionally getting lost.


On their journey the four characters barely survive until they finally see the “light at the end of the tunnel” and proceed to eat lots of cheese and are very happy.  Then things begin to change.  Sniff and Scurry soon notice changes in their environment.  Hem and Haw, however, think they are “out of the woods” and take the cheese for granted.  These two develop a comfort level in their newly found stash of cheese.  Gradually the cheese begins to dwindle.  Sniff and Scurry are not concerned.  They see that the cheese is not going to last forever so they put on their running shoes and search for new cheese.


Meanwhile, Hem and Haw do not notice the dwindling supply of cheese.  They are not alert to what the future holds for them.  When all the remaining cheese is finally consumed, Hem and Haw throw two huge fits like little babies.  This does not bring the cheese back, yet they remain unwilling to search for new cheese.


Change occurs and Hem and Haw are left behind.  Hem is bitter and reluctant to leave the cheese station in order to find new cheese.  He is very stubborn.  He is too set in his ways to make the necessary changes.  He thinks he deserved the cheese, and wants the cheese to be returned.  He is not interested in searching for new cheese.  His old cheese is the only cheese he wants and he refuses to leave the empty cheese station.  Many people stick with old ways of doing things because it is too frightening or difficult to change with the times.


Haw begins to be concerned that they are spinning their wheels. For a while he hopes that the old cheese will return.  He is afraid of venturing back out into the maze, so he waits with Hem.  Finally, after being very hungry from the lack of cheese, Haw, out of desperation, decides to go search for new cheese.  This takes a great deal of strength for Haw to face his fears and to leave Hem behind.  On his journey Haw leaves several notes on the walls of the maze as he learns new truths.  A few of the writings are:


The more important your cheese is to you, the more you want to hold on to it.

Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old.

Movement in a new direction helps you find new cheese.

The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese.


Haw eventually finds his way to the new cheese. There he discovers Sniff and Scurry, who have already found the fresh cheese and have been enjoying it for some time.  Haw is sorry that he had not set out in search of the new cheese sooner.  However, he misses his friend Hem, who took himself too seriously.


This entertaining little parable is a quick read which illustrates that sometimes we get too accustomed to our cheese being in a particular place and fail to notice when the supply gets smaller or is about to disappear.  Then when we finally notice, we are often too frustrated to look for alternative sources of cheese, or else we eventually start looking while losing valuable time. 


Some people, of course, are more astute and prepare themselves for the inevitable after observing a dwindling cheese supply.  This book illustrates how some people foresee that they are going to need to make major changes in their lives.  Therefore, they start searching for new alternatives before the change actually has to be made.  When the change finally must be made, they are already prepared to take the appropriate actions.


This story is simplistic, but there are good philosophical points made throughout the book.  It points out these basic concepts:


1. “They keep moving the cheese.” (Change happens.)


2. “Get ready for the cheese to move.” (Anticipate the change.)


3. “Move with the cheese.” (Actually make the change.)


4. “Enjoy the taste of new cheese.” (Enjoy the fruits of change.)


Many reviews give Who Moved My Cheese? great marks and compliment its easy reading and brevity.  The book is very simple and makes a great point. As you read this book you will probably start relating the different characters in the book to people that you know, and how they react to change. Who Moved My Cheese? is not just for business professionals or organizations, but can be very helpful for everyday life.

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