32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2002
I agree with reviewers who said beware if your company starts handing out this book. In fact, the only reason I read a copy is because a friend got one after her company went through layoffs. Admittedly, the advice on this level is sound: don't get too comfortable; we ain't running a charity here.
There is nothing profound about the tale unless people really are astounded to hear that their job (small business, romantic relationship, etc.) is not an entitlement but something they have to work at, take responsibility for, and be prepared to replace if they have to. On the other hand, people do make a lot of plans--buying a house, raising kids--that are contingent on their "cheese" staying in one place for a while. So it's insensitive for this kind of message to be sent out from upper management.
I also agree that this book says nothing about business process. It appears to be a guide to self-preservation under anarchic conditions. This is a useful skill, surely, but not one that a functioning business should rely on as the path to success.
It's also insulting on the level that all success is reduced to "cheese" given by some mysterious benevolence. Haw doesn't consider leaving the maze, getting some cows and making his own cheese. The post-discussion is insulting as well. Can't the reader draw his or her own conclusions? Just how insulting is this little book? Let me count the ways... no enough has been said about this already.
Without even criticizing the message, I just think that the story is weakly developed. There are the mice, who respond to change well because they don't really plan on things staying the same. There are the humans who get comfortable and resist change. Hem refuses to respond to change. Haw reluctantly responds to change and becomes self-empowered, finding something better than he lost.
The story is almost entirely about Haw. The point of the mice is not very clear. Presumably, the mice also represent human responses to change, just less sophisticated ones. But very little is said about the mice apart from their specific strategies. Sniff senses cheese, Scurry just moves around a lot (I guess) till he finds some. Are there other strategies that could be identified? What is special about these two?
It is unclear whether the mouse characters serve any purpose other than to establish the maze setting for the story. The reader is mostly invited to identify with Haw. But why not the mice? It is stated that Haw is smarter than the mice. Other than his ability to express himself in trite platitudes, there is little to support that contention. Hem is a non entity, just a thinly developed example of who not to be like. Nobody will identify with such a shallow complaining character, so his role is not very effective.
From a purely utilitarian standpoint, the mice seem to have the right idea (don't get too comfortable; nobody's running a charity; get ready to move on when you have to). There is no way in which Haw is at any advantage over the mice. He doesn't think his way to the cheese; he uses the same search techniques as the mice, but he delays until it gets dangerous. His mind only serves as emotional accompanyment. This appears to be the author's understanding of the human experience. It does not take you to any higher levels than animal instincts; it merely annoys and amuses you in uniquely human ways. It appears that the best strategy would be to emulate the mice, but we just don't because we would rather complain a bit first.
If I had to summarize the allegory in one word, I'd say "lazy." There's nothing especially challenging here, nothing that a moderately realistic person would disagree with. But many elements of the tale are just filler, or if there is some specific purpose to them, it is not made clear. There are no compelling take-aways that could not be stated much more simply.
412 of 511 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 1999
First of all, let me suggest that I read this book more than 20 years ago when it was called "Jonathan Livingston Seagull," by Richard Bach. Then I read it again five years later when it was called "Illusions," also by Richard Bach. The central theme here, as well as in Mr. Bach's books, is learning to let go of your fears and anxieties so you can do and accomplish the things in life that will truly make you happy. This is not a novel notion. Nor is the concept of change as an intimidating proposition, as anyone who has moved as a child or even entered a new school can attest to from an early age. To be fair, while "Who Moved My Cheese" is overly simplistic, it does impart a modicum of encouragement and inspiration. However, I believe the message has been expressed through far more interesting story lines, such as in Mr. Bach's parable-like novellas, which by the way, I recommend to anyone who found Mr. Johnson's effort compelling and rewarding. On a substantive level, I feel Mr. Johnson could have taken the story development quite a ways further and to a deeper, more intricate level, particularly for someone who fancies himself an authority in the field of professional development. Some might argue that its appeal is in its simplicity. That's fine if you take it at bare-bones face value. Others might contest that sugar-coated, child-like allegories are great material for second-grade book reports, but when senior-management types start passing such efforts off as holy gospel, I become circumspect. Furthermore, I fear countless workplaces overflowing with trite "cheeseisms." In fact, I'm sure it's just a matter of time before conventional-wisdom-spouting clones from all walks of business start retorting to reasonable issues raised at business meetings with the glib reply "move with the cheese," at which point these people should be gently slapped back to reality. I personally would have liked to have seen more obstacles and characters introduced to the story. Even Alice had more interesting encounters in Wonderland, and she negotiated all of them with poise and dignity in her effort to reach her goal. Perhaps instead of worrying about the business associate he left behind, our protagonist could have met new business associates in the maze, with the common cause of finding the new cheese. Better yet, maybe the littleperson who was in charge of Cheese Station C should have been axed for mismanagement. And then the new littleperson in charge could have assembled a task force to go out and hunt for new cheese. We littlepeople don't always have to go it alone. Obviously, I am complicating the story line. But I think a fable that resembles a business farce or a comedy of errors with a positive ending would be far more engaging. Just saying "change happens, be proactive rather than reactive" is old news. The least Johnson could have done was come up with more interesting "writings on the wall," most of which were insipid at best. Then you could walk away with actual tools in the form of little adages you can repeat to yourself when the need arises. However, there was one writing on the wall that I thought had an elegant poignancy about it which I believe was the most useful tidbit to be gleaned from the entire book. And that is "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" This is a thought one does not normally think to put to oneself in just that manner, unlike the vast majority of platitudes which infest this marginal read.
77 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2000
Aphoristic cliches are all well and good, but not when they cost $20. Fear not, thinking animals of the farm! This book is only a number one bestseller because of it's corporate connections--it proudly lists 72 of them (AAA through Xerox) before the title page. Reminds me of the George W. Bush campaign's $100,000 Pioneer donors being passed off as a groundswell of popular support--admit it, ninety percent of you read this book because your company made it required reading.
I'm reassured that the head of my 25-person company gave it to his staff with some idea that he would be insulting their intelligence, but that the book would spark positive discussion anyway (last year's title was Ken Blanchard's RAVING FANS). I just lament the $250 or more he must have spent on it.
What about the message of this cute little hardbacked pamphlet? Change happens, deal with it or starve, you silly mouse you. Obviously Spencer Johnson has a nice franchise going for himself. Let's just be honest about who finances it.
To use a better rodentine image, I quote Lily Tomlin: "The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you are still a rat." What are we America? I wasn't insulted by this book, but it did make me wonder about the answer to that question.
82 of 102 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2001
Basically I take exception to most of the authors' beginning assumptions. Things like `change always requires a reaction', `only fear stops us from pursuing change', and `change is always for the better.'
First of all he has his mice & people living in a maze. He asserts that they should not fear the maze and in addition, he has added a benign greater being (i.e. God or a Scientist?) who always renews the supply of cheese and intends no harm to our inhabitants. As we are led through the maze, running, we see that there is no real harm to be experienced in the maze and the only goals and experiences are limited to self gratification and survival. Amazingly, there are no consequences for running blindly towards change (I would think one might experience feelings of loss, grief, betrayal, etc.). And we are further directed to continually reevaluate our cheese and if it is moldy cast it off and go in search of new cheese.
Yes change is inevitable. Sometimes gradually and so discreetly as to not even be perceived and sometimes in a split second our lives can change so dramatically as to be virtually unrecognizable. But surely not all changes require us to `run' or to even change in an equally reactive capacity. Common sense alone tells us that sometimes it is better to hunker down and NOT MOVE AT ALL. Some changes must simply be endured. Not everything that happens in our lives is `fixable' or made better by running forward and embracing that change.
In my version of the book, I need additional characters to Hem, Haw, Sniff & Scurry. We as humans are not relegated to one of these four responses to change. The characters I would add are Patience, Fortitude, Loyalty, Trust, Faith, Charity and Perseverance. Poor Hem, he could have used some Charity and Loyalty. I can't help but wonder if he will now stalk and kill Haw who betrayed and abandoned him in pursuit of new cheese. And is Haw so selfish that he experiences no remorse over abandoning Hem?
Secondly, I don't live in a maze in a pristine world where cheese just appears and replenishes and where there are no dangers or consequences for my actions. I live in a real world that is sometimes joyous to belong to and at other times filled with very real dangers or threats. Here are these rather intellectually limited creatures living blissfully in a maze being supplied their cheese on an ongoing basis and all they have to do is run after it. Last time I looked, just running to a new locale didn't solve anything.
If you want real change, then jump the wall of the maze, buy a cow and set up your own dairy. Then feed all the creatures, teach them self-sufficiency and branch out into farming and other pursuits. Take charge of the direction of your life, run blindly through no mans' maze.
Some changes will call for a rallying of resources and action on my part. Some change that may affect me, may be only residual fallout from changes affecting another. Should I now go off half cocked and assume I must change also? Am I to live my life constantly reacting to others? Am I not permitted to just endure some changes?
As for constantly reevaluating and sniffing my cheese: What is cheese but a dairy product that has gone moldy? Mold is inherent in the nature of cheese (and all things living). Some of the best cheeses in the world in the opinions of connoisseurs and myself (blue, Roquefort, Stilton) actually have large visible veins of mold running through them and reek to high heaven. Yet they are highly prized over newer younger cheeses like Camembert or Brie. They are considered `ripe', a very desirable characteristic. I prefer the complexities of an older, moldy cheese.
If we were to continually to question the merits of what we have versus the merits of what we might have, I think we should never experience a happy or content moment in life ever again. That to me would be tragic and intolerable and require a BIG change. Life is not guaranteed to be always happy and smooth, without pitfalls and pratfalls, anger and laughter, etc. But it is guaranteed to be all those things and to be changing continually. Some change we will embrace, some we will push away, some we may flat out deny and some are to be simply endured.
The idea that, by changing ourselves and/or our behavior on a continuous basis to accommodate changes as they occur will somehow make these changes less traumatic or easier or more valid or okay, just strikes me as fallacious reasoning. Are we to be so fickle to our beliefs as to constantly be adrift on the current of change? Are we no longer to live life in the here and now savoring all the small good things that make life worthwhile? Are we now to live with all thoughts focused ahead anxiously seeking out, identifying and dealing only with anticipated changes?
Life is not made up only of the pursuit of cheese. A long or short term absence of cheese is not what defines the meaning of life and it therefore does not require immediate action. There are other pursuits: physical, academic, artistic, spiritual and emotional that are also worthwhile and sustain us at times when the cheese is less than perfect.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2000
I am ashamed to have contributed my money to the "Who Moved My Cheese" industry (Book, Movie, Programs, Products at [...]) which is devoted to browbeating people with the obvious. Talk about hype . . . even disregarding the majority of rave reviews on Amazon.com, and the cover blurb . . . of the ninety-six pages in this small book, four are devoted to testimonials, six are "The Story Behind the Story", four are the actual prologue to the story, eighteen are a rehash of the story (sort of an epilog), and the last page is an order form for more copies of the book. Only fifty-one pages are the actual "parable", and of these, fiftteen are taken up by full-page illustrations reminiscent of the word slides at a motivational meeting - for example, "Smell the Cheese Often, So You Know When It is Getting Old". In case the reader misses the point, these cutesy word slides are repeated later, under more literal headings, such as "Monitor Change."
The story is just what you would expect of someone whose job it is to promote change. It does have some charm, but that is seriously marred by Haw's ruminations about his state of mind. This writing is not in the same league as the story of the ant and the grasshopper.
These is one moment of drama in the story, when Hem decides to make a hole to see if he can find more Cheese. It seems for a moment that the characters might find a way out of the maze in which they are eternally trapped. They might get out of the maze and into the laboratory kitchen, where the cheese really comes from. But resistance to the system is not on the author's agenda, and in the story, the hole leads nowhere. Although Hem says, "I'm going to get to the bottom of this," the author intends for us to see that resistance is futile, and the route to success is running the rat race as mindlessly as possible.
Save your money.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2003
This is a book for people who are afraid of change. Personally, I was attracted by the title and thought it might be an interesting book. The concept is too simple and not really useful to me because I actually love change and hate routine so it's not a book for everyone. The cheese is a symbol for what is important to us in our lives. It can be your relationship with someone, your job, etc. I've highlighted some important ideas in this book.
First and foremost, the world is always changing so you must change with it. Did I tell you the concept is simple or what? Instead of questioning who moved your cheese, you should move with the cheese. The sooner you let go of the old cheese, you will find your new cheese.
Don't worry too much. When you relieve yourself of all worries and fears, you will feel free.
Anticipate for change. When you look for signs of change, you will start planning for the future. This will lessen the impact when change does occur.
Visualize the cheese and you will find the cheese.
Laugh at your mistakes. Don't be too serious. This will ensure you will move on and not remain stagnant. Enjoy change.
That's it. If you feel you did not gain anything from this review, you are wrong. You gain the money you would have otherwise wasted on this book.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The point of "Who Moved My Cheese" is simply that new situations are likely to require new actions.
Doing the same thing over and over again, absent achieving the desired result(s), is not a good approach. Yet, this is an everyday occurrence in business, personal lives, and government - eg. blaming the economy, the government, competitors, racial or religious discrimination, penny-pinching taxpayers, new patron demands/needs for service, terrorists, self-serving allies, etc. while continuing with more of the same.
Will reading "Who Moved My Cheese?" (a simple "fairy-tale like" short-story) make any of the above more likely to accept reality and move on, or better yet, to anticipate the need for change and be prepared? Who knows for certain? I do know, however, that I have NEVER heard of anyone refer to this book in the context for which it was intended! Conversely, my study of failing organizations is that organizational change required first CHANGING THE LEADERSHIP!
Regardless, "Who Moved My Cheese" can easily be read and assimilated in less than one-half hour at a bookstore - thus, it is certainly not worth the $19.95 list price.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Adapt or die.
There. I just saved you $12.
If you didn't know that the times, they are a'changin', then you might want to read this book. Otherwise, save yourself the time and expense and go watch "The Apprentice" instead. You'll probably learn more about business strategies than you would by reading this thin volume.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2000
This book can easily be read in 20 minutes while say, browsing in your favorite bookstore. Then you can save your money to buy a real book. The "story" is crude, uninteresting and poorly told. It's written to illustrate the points the author wants to make about embracing change. It's hard to believe that people will shell out alot of money to read what should be a chapter in a book or could stand alone as a magazine article. Overall, it did serve as a very quick and very very basic reminder about anticipating change in life, but don't waste your money buying it, just read it in a bookstore and buy something else you want.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2000
This is a 20 minute read with a 1-minute message. If you keep on doing what you're doing, you'll keep on getting what you've got. What's remarkable is the list price of this book. Considering the size of the type and brevity of the story, a very overpriced pamphlet.