One of my favorite change management books is Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr. Spencer Johnson.
I remember my first time reading the book many years ago, during preparation for retirement from my first career.
It was a difficult time for me. Transitioning from my first to second career left me wondering what the next chapter of my life would look like. My husband suggested I read Who Moved My Cheese? to help me learn more about the change process.
The book tells a parable about change using four characters, two mice named Sniff and Scurry, and two little people named Hem and Haw. The characters live in a maze, which represents “where you look for what you want” (Johnson). Each character spends their days looking for cheese, which is a “metaphor for what you want to have in life” (Johnson).
In the story, the characters are faced with unexpected change when their cheese is moved from its normal location. The book goes on to show how the four characters respond to change, which was forced upon them.
When I started reading the book, my mindset was like the character “Hem” because I was afraid of change.
As I read more of the book, I realized I was in the “maze” because the maze represented change…
However, as I continued reading the story my mindset began to change. I realized change could lead to something better.
If you ask most people if they like change the resounding response is “No.” So why do we resist change?
According to Peter Senge, “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.” As humans, I have found we don’t like change for three reasons:
- We think we’ll lose something of value
- We fear we won’t be able to adapt to the change
- We are uncertain of what the future holds
Change can drive resistance. When organizational changes are implemented our natural tendency is to resist. Our need to feel safe and secure has a direct impact on our productivity.
Change and adaptability are required if organizations want to maintain their global competitiveness.
So how do leaders successfully manage change? Based on past experience, the following four steps help leaders effectively manage change:
- Engaging stakeholders – make stakeholders active participants in the change process
- Anticipating and managing politics – recognize and understand that there will competing agendas to manage
- Aligning organizational priorities – develop a shared culture to create buy-in from all stakeholders
- Persevering – stay the course when faced with difficulty
When I finished reading “Who Moved My Cheese?” my outlook was transformed. I began to see myself like “Haw” and understood that change happens every day.
I made a choice to accept the change in my life and look forward to new opportunities. Our response to change will determine our success.
Are you embracing change leadership?
Dr. Kim Moore
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