Moving the Cheese Smartly

book-cover_51ffdekuyel-_sx321_bo1204203200_Last week I was in The Netherlands speaking at arvato’s Supply Chain Masterclass. Of course, I couldn’t resist the urge to go to one of Holland’s wonderful cheese shops. But deciding on what to buy often seems overwhelming after you have tasted a dozen samples!

My recent visit made me think about the book Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. After I got back from The Netherlands, I pulled out my old copy and noticed the book will soon be 20 years old. While old, its message—responding positively to change—is timeless.

The 100-page fable involving four mice captures the moment after we have lost a job or a relationship and we believe it’s the end of the world. All the good things were in the previous situation, and all the future holds is fear. Yet Johnson’s message is, instead of seeing change as the end of something, we must learn to see it as a beginning. We all know this at some level deep inside – I often put it in the context of “business happens”—but even so at times motivation in the face of the new reality wanes or splinters. To make himself accept reality, one of the mice, Haw, writes this on the wall of the maze:

This brings me back to the cheese shop I visited, which literally had more than one hundred types of cheese. In business, each function (or bit of cheese) has its own success measures. Standing alone, these functions do wonderfully well just like each of the cheeses in the shop. But often there can be too many competing cheeses on the table, creating a distorting array of dynamics that can prevent the full flavor of a business initiative from developing. Put simply, the individual cheeses each taste great, but combined cancel each other out.

The moral of the story?

. But it can be difficult for the business to perform well if there are too many competing priorities. The challenge for an organization is to move your cheese smartly. This is one reason I am such a fan of creating a Shared Vision and Statement of Intent for strategic partnerships. Simply put, they help create an environment that focuses your change efforts.

Image: Book cover via Amazon

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