Research Paper By Thomas Varghese
(Executive Coach, INDIA)
‘Change’ can be two kinds – changes that come our way and changes we want to bring about. While both these mean the same, we perceive them differently. While fear and resistance are associated with former, hope and ambition is reflected in the latter. We are excited to be the change we want to see, yet, anxious about the changes in everything else. Why do you think they’re an apparent disparity between the two? The reason is simple– it is ‘preparedness’.
What is the change?
Change by its very nature alters status quo and requires one to adapt to it. The resistance to change is understandable just like the inertia explained by Newton’s First Law of motion which states, “every object continues to be in a state of rest unless an external force is acted upon it”. Likewise, it is not uncommon to have a tendency to resist change. Alas, to not change isn’t an option! One may not like the gusty winds of change, but, quicker they adjust their sail to the change sooner will they reach their destination. Change is beyond mere force:
- Change is not a choice – it is inevitable
- The change could be caused by internal or external factors or both
- Change can be in innumerable contexts – within the self, relationships, organisations, society, etc.
- The change could be a threat, when ignored, or an opportunity when adapted rightly
- Change can be a reaction, or a response (when prepared)
Most importantly, for one who is prepared, Change is a continuous ‘Process’.
Facebook and WhatsApp success demonstrates how imagining change can be an opportunity. Netflixevolving with the E-commerce disruption explains how ‘preparedness’ to Change distinguishes successful from the rest. Leave alone the successful transformations in the business world; nature itself offers us countless examples of how animals or plants deal with climate changes in a systematic way. From tiniest ants storing more food in summers to hibernation of giant bears to water retention by Cactus in dry regions, all of them teach us Change Management.
One needs to understand that Change only opens a door to another. And the Key to success lies in embracing it! Whether it is Lord Buddha’s enlightenment or remarkable transformation of Chinese’ Economy, it is embracing Change that has made all the difference.
Book Review of “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Dr Spenser Johnson
About the book
“Who Moved My Cheese? – An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life” is a simple motivational fable that reveals profound truths of change. It is based on an enlightening story of four characters who live in a ‘Maze’ and look for ‘Cheese’.The characters of the story are two mice named Sniff and Scurry (who sniff and scurry to change quickly) and two little people “Hem” and “Haw” (phrase for indecisiveness).
‘Cheese’ is a metaphor for what you want to have in life – whether it’s a good job, a loving relationship, money, a possession, good health or peace of mind. And ‘The Maze’ is where you look for what you want – the organization you work in, or the family or community you live in.
Story in Summary
The story begins with the mice and the little people travelling lengthy corridors of Maze searching for Cheese each day until they find a huge block of cheese in ‘Cheese Station –C’. Once they find their Cheese, although the mice show the same vigour and enthusiasm every day, little people awoke each day a little later, dressed a little slower and grew ignorant to the consequences.
One day, Sniff and Scurry arrive at the Cheese in Station-C to find no cheese left. The mice with simple brain and instincts have foreseen this earlier and were not surprised at the missing cheese. Instead, they quickly move on to hunt for a new cheese block. However, the little people with complex brains and emotions, get annoyed at the missing Cheese, complaining, “Who Moved My Cheese?”.The little people have counted on the cheese supply to be constant find themselves in denial now.
After deciding that the cheese is indeed gone, Haw suggests searching for new cheese. Hem, however, comforted by his old routine and fear of the unknown, refuses to the idea suggesting that the Cheese will be placed back.
In the meantime, Sniff and Scurry find a new Cheese in ‘Station – N’while the little people without any Cheese become weaker. Realizing that the Cheese is indeed gone, Haw laughs at the situation and resolves to search for new Cheese alone. As he set his journey towards new cheese, he leaves a message for his friend to ponder, “If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct”.
Still plagued with worry (perhaps he has waited too long to begin his search), Haw finds some bits of cheese that nourish him and he is able to continue his search. Haw realizes that the cheese has not suddenly vanished, but has dwindled from continual eating. After a stop at an empty cheese station, Haw begins worrying about the unknown again. Brushing aside his fears, Haw’s new mindset allows him to again enjoy life. He has even begun to smile again! He realizes “When you move beyond your fear, you feel free.” After another empty cheese station, Haw decides to go back for Hem with the few bits of new cheese he has managed to find.
Uncompromising, Hem refuses the new cheese, to his friend’s disappointment. With the knowledge learned along the way, Haw heads back into the maze. Getting deeper into the maze, inspired by bits of new cheese here and there, Haw leaves a trail of writings on the wall.
These clarify his own thinking and give him hope that his friend will find aid in them during his search for new cheese. Still travelling, Haw one day comes across Cheese Station N, abundant with cheese, including some varieties that are strange to him, and he realizes he has found what he was looking for. After eating, Haw reflects on his experience. He ponders a return to see his old friend. But then Haw decides to let Hem find his own way.
The allegory clearly highlights the human predicaments of fear and uncertainty associated with change. Although being a simple fable, it casts out a few precious lessons to life that remain relevant even till date.
Change Happens – They Keep Moving the Cheese
Yes, change happens. To believe otherwise would be unwise. Change is the most common phenomenon. People, Perspectives, Places, Positions and everything else change, and it happens to everyone. When we don’t accept this, we tend to get agitated and annoyed at it, which in turn lead to denial. One should not just simply accept the idea of change, but deeply internalise it. This will not only prevent surprises but make one more alert to changes.
Anticipate and Monitor Change – Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old
Change is only inevitable but not invisible. Accepting to change is one step, foreseeing it is another. Anticipating change is not easy. It is, in fact, the core aspect of change management. It requires:
- Caution – being alert and observing
- Awareness – complete understanding/ having more relevant information
- Foresight and imagination – Ability to predict the possible changes based on existing knowledge.
Adapt to Change Quickly – The Quicker You Let Go of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese
Change is dynamic. Adapting to change in time is important, or else, we may find ourselves with another change before we adjust to the former. We may hesitate or resist to it although we know it is unavoidable. The only way to deal with the Change is to change! Then why wait until the boat sinks?
Old beliefs do not lead you to new Cheese
When training baby elephants, their handlers begin by sturdily chaining one hind leg of the animal to a tree. The young elephant struggles to free itself of the chain but it cannot. As the years pass and the elephant grows to full size it could easily pull the chain loose, but it doesn’t. The trainer continually reduces the size of the chain until finally, all that’s required to constrain the animal is a thin string. It’s not the string that restrains him. It’s the belief.
Similarly, more often than not, it is not our inability but our misplaced beliefs that lead to resistance. Our beliefs, although, deeply rooted within our minds, can be mendable. It is therefore important to be mindful of our own beliefs that hold us back.
Story of Bajaj Auto
Bajaj Auto, most successful name in the scooter segment in India in the nineties had seen customers queuing for its Chetak. However, with only 10% of its products in the motorbike segment, the company was cautious and aware of the shrinking scooter market and changing consumer trends. It realized that it is time for them to design a future in motorbike segment which was already dominated by the Hondas and Yamahas.
Bajaj had noticed that customers are looking for something more than just a motorbike for commuting(back then Honda’s offered stylish but fewer powerful bikes). Bajaj wanted to bring a stylish bike with a powerful engine, that too, without compromising on either price or fuel efficiency. To achieve this, they planned to build one good product adopting Japanese Management Practises.
However, most workers in their plant did not believe in it and there was stiff resistance to the move. Bajaj then decided to set up an entirely new plant instead of relying on the existing facility. They even had to shut down a forty-year-old facility and let go of many people. Their new plant went on to virtually double their productivity levels and inked markets with their hit bikes. Today, Bajaj Auto is the world’s 3rd largest manufacturer of motorcycles.
Enjoy Change! – Savour The Adventure and Enjoy the Taste of New Cheese!
Without change, we would perhaps have remained as cavemen! Isn’t it? Would we be sending manned missions to Mars today? While it may sound silly when zoomed out, it only reiterates that change is how we evolve. Why not appreciate it then and deal with it positively instead of being afraid? Roosevelt rightly said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Eliminating our fear of unknown and reckoning Change as evolution can help instil an attitude to appreciate Change.
We have to move with the Cheese! We already know that Change is the only Constant! However, many of us still struggle to deal with it. A little introspection will remind us of our own stories of success and failures associated with Change. As Coaches, it is important that we inspire our clients to let go of their fear of the unknown and embrace it with open arms. Indeed, “It is safer to search in the Maze than remain in a Cheese-less Situation”.
The book “Who Moved My Cheese?”By Dr Spenser Johnson
Summary from Wikipedia.org