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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Book Review: Who Moved My Cheese?, by Spencer Johnson

With the Obama administration approaching like a Mack truck, it's a good time to take a look at Who Moved My Cheese?, the popular - and reviled - handbook on coping with change.

Johnson summarizes his theory thus (source: Wikipedia):

Change Happens
They Keep Moving The Cheese

Anticipate Change
Get Ready For The Cheese To Move

Monitor Change
Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old

Adapt To Change Quickly
The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese

Move With The Cheese

Enjoy Change!
Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!

Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again & Again
They Keep Moving The Cheese.

The book is especially hated by many who received it as a gift from employers; Amazon reviewer M. Swartz encapsulates the common reaction:

This is a book written for unquestioning, mindless followers, not a book for leaders. But a tool that leaders would use to try and control their subordinates.

The ultimate problem with the book is that it addresses only a small subset of change; most types differ from Johnson's model in one or more ways.

What are the characteristics of change? The following, I believe, covers most of the bases:

  1. Change involves the gain and/or loss of a resource (person, object, time).
  2. Change may or may not be due to someone's error or duplicity.
  3. Change may or may not be reversible.
  4. A substitute for a lost resource may or may not be available.
  5. An available substitute for a lost resource is either chosen by or forced upon the individual.
  6. Change is either a net benefit, a net loss, or a break-even.

A more thorough analysis of change will include these topics among its inquiries:

  • Protection against duplicity.
  • How to fix your mistakes.
  • How to persuade others to fix their mistakes.
  • Discerning when change can and should be challenged.
  • Adapting to the irreversible negative outcomes from change.

I wonder if Who Subprimed My Cheese will ever join the list of parodies...


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