I might have been the last one in the working world to try reading the book “Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life.” My dad gave me a copy a while back and the tiny book sat on my bookshelf, taking up little precious space. It was suggested that we maybe use the book as a “change management” tool.
I couldn’t get through more than half of the book before quitting. This is NOT a book I would use during a lean implementation.
The story of the book goes somewhat like this: 2 mice and 2 “little humans” (the book awkwardly calls them something like this to make sure you don’t miss the “analogy”) are in a cheese maze and they have a seemingly endless supply of cheese to return to each day. One day, the cheese is gone. The mice run off to find more cheese, being simple creatures (or so the book explains). The humans sit and whine, bitch, and moan about how it’s unfair that the cheese is gone and they refuse to go look for more.
That point is belabored for many many pages (taking up little precious time, it’s a short, childish book). The clear parallel I saw was that the cheese might represent someone’s factory or workplace being closed completely, or at least going through a massive downsizing. The book’s advise might be solid in that case — life ain’t fair, quit bitching, find a new job.
Is that the message I want coming out during a lean project? Not at all! Especially not during a project where we have promised no layoffs as the result of lean. It seems like the book would only scare people without adding any value.
The book also seems to send a message that if change happens to you, you just have to shut up and deal with it. I can’t believe that some people call that “change management.” In our lean efforts, we WANT people to give us input, not to keep their mouths shut. If they don’t like a change we are considering or have done, they need to SPEAK UP. We might have made a mistake or maybe we didn’t consider something. Shutting up and “dealing with” the change doesn’t help. That’s not the spirit of kaizen. All change is not “good”. Kaizen means “change for the good.” Some changes might be horrible, stupid decisions. You shouldn’t have to “roll with it” no matter what change is thrown at you.
Anyway, my blog post is about to become as long as the book itself. The amazon.com reviews are pretty polarized. I’m not the only one who viewed the book this way. Many of the reviewers said, basically, if you’re given this book by management, you need to hold on or start looking for a new job ASAP.