This book is now over 20 years old and is often quoted by people who have never read it. It’s become a lingua franca. A common way to describe an even more common challenge. It’s about an hour’s read and has sold over 28 million copies.
For anyone who has read my book reviews before you will know I really do enjoy a parable and the story in this book is as simple as any, but more powerful than most.
There are four characters in the story, two are mice called Sniff and Scurry and two are little people the size of mice called Hem and Haw. They all live in a maze and depend for their survival on their cheese.
Now for this story to work, you need to understand that cheese is a metaphor, even if you are partial to a bit of Norwegian Blue now and again. Who isn’t? Cheese could be a job, relationship, money, health or peace. And the maze is the boundaries of where you can search for your cheese.
Scurry is always in a hurry and Sniff can smell cheese. Together, these two mice will always survive. Hem and Haw however have challenges to deal with around their fears, complacency, entitlement and dependency on normality.
When change happens and their cheese is no longer where they expected it to be in the maze, Scurry and Sniff move on quickly. Hem and Haw however are rather restricted in their thinking and desire to act and decided for the longest time to wait for someone to put their cheese back. Haw eventually decides to venture out of his comfort zone and once again eventually finds his cheese.
I am reviewing this book now principally because of Covid-19 whilst sitting in my home office. Although I continue to be engaged with Business Computer Solutions in a Chairman role, I now also work with hundreds of businesses across Europe which gives me a perspective of the problem that seems to be coming our way. Things have changed to accommodate a pandemic and someone has moved your cheese.
Many people will be waiting for ‘normal’ to return. I however believe that to a greater part, things will never be the same again. I miss shaking hands and hugs, but it’s so much more than that. Meetings that were once ‘only possible in person’ are now successfully conducted over a video call. People who couldn’t be trusted unless they were seen at a desk are now even more productive working from their kitchen table. Processes and policies are changing everywhere. People have started saying “How are you?” and really meaning it. This is a new world indeed.
One of the things I quite like about this book is how it divides its readers. Many people find the message that the book contains too simplistic. The message is change happens. It’s how you react to change that will shape your happiness and success. Never has that been truer.
What if we never go back to the office and continue to work from our homes? What changes do we need to embrace to our way of working, communicating and connecting with people for this to be successful. It’s also maybe worth investing in a comfortable chair!
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