1) What is your suggestion about?
Who Moved My Cheese? is a parable about how people define success (the cheese) and simple strategies for individuals to adapt to achieve success when the organization or environment changes (when the cheese moves). The four characters represent personalities, biases, and perspectives that are all familiar in our daily lives. They represent the obstacles as well as opportunities to help a person or organization change for the better.
2) Why did you choose it?
I read this book early in my career just before I had to decide whether I would move by myself to pursue my dream of a public service career in Washington, DC. Reading Who Moved My Cheese? helped me think through what it would take to move very far out of my comfort zone. I faced leaving close confidants, a familiar neighborhood, and a job where I was successful but not challenged. While I was anxious, this simple story helped me to navigate through my concerns to seize the opportunity to make a larger positive impact on citizens’ lives on a national level. I concluded that the impact was worth the uncertainties involved in re-establishing myself personally and professionally. Looking back from Jefferson City today, I can see that if I had not made this great leap of faith, I never would have had the federal and state government experiences that I draw upon every day in my current role as a Cabinet officer overseeing a diverse and complex agency.
Since this first reading years ago, Who Moved My Cheese? has helped me develop a flexible mental framework to define and achieve success personally and organizationally.
The concepts are basic and straightforward enough for everyone to understand. In preparing for this, my seven year-old daughter and I watched an animated version of the story. She was able to retell the main points of the story and explain to me what the “cheese” means in her life (she wants to be an astronaut) and how she would deal with the “cheese” being moved (considering other jobs that involve math, science, and space, which may include being a Jedi Master). The point is, it’s never too early or too hard to train yourself to be ready and adaptable to life’s changes.
3) What else do you want to tell us about it?
Having applied the author’s lessons and questions, I’ve come to realize that it’s not always the specific skill set or experience that supports a life or career change. Oftentimes forcing yourself out of your comfort zone is the best way to overcome the hardest hurdles and open yourself up to more fulfilling opportunities. Nurturing an adaptive outlook is essential to success in your chosen vocation – especially as it changes.
4) What is a key takeaway for leaders driving improvement in how we deliver for the citizens of Missouri?
I have used the ideas raised by Who Moved My Cheese? in group discussions when working to make organizations better. When team members understand that change is inevitable and needed – and redefine what is their new goal (i.e. the cheese) and how to reach it (i.e. going thru the maze and marking the deliberate steps to explore and change along the way) – then the organizational change is more likely to deliver what they all want professionally. This way everyone gets to enjoy their cheese!