I love reading business books – I think as a business owner and consultant it’s important to keep up to date with new techniques, and learn how different approaches can help both your own and your client’s business.
Books about managing change are especially interesting to me. I’ve spent the last 15 years managing change. The businesses I’ve been in have constantly had to adapt to the economic climate as profits were reducing and customers were becoming more price conscious. It’s been interesting to see how different people cope with managing change I had to implement, and to take them through that journey and help them adjust to new ways of doing things.
The book “Who Cut the Cheese” by “Stilton Jarslberg” explores how different people (or rats in this case) respond to managing change in both their circumstances and surroundings. It struck a chord with me – having seen quite a few of these characters in real life, and recognising various traits in myself.
The main part of the story is about 4 creatures who live in a maze – 2 rats and 2 tiny people. These characters have one aim in life – and that’s to find cheese which would “fill their bellies and give them pleasure and security”. The cheese is meant to be a representation of the things we want out of life – whatever they may be. The maze is life – specifically the “blind alleys” we sometimes find ourselves in while we’re working out how best to get to our “cheese”.
In the story, life in the maze is fine for a while. The rats rely on their instincts to find cheese, the tiny people use reasoning. They each do fairly well at finding cheese.
Then one bright day they all find CheesyWorld – a place where everything they need is in abundance. It’s here that we see how their approaches to managing change differ. The rats still carry on with their daily routine – they wake up and head for the cheese as quickly as possible. They stay alert and up to date with what’s happening. The people, however, figure out that the cheese will be there regardless of when they go and get it, so they start taking their time and relaxing in their new found luxury.
One day, the cheese is gone. The story goes on to explain how each of the four characters goes about managing change. Let’s have a look at the four main characters:
Snitch (he’s a rat). He’s the kind of rat who keeps his ear to the ground to find out what’s going on, then uses the information to stay ahead of the game. But he doesn’t do the dirty work – he leaves that to Scamper.
Scamper (the second rat) is a doer. When he gets information from Snitch about where he might find the cheese he races ahead and tries to find it by whatever means he has available to him. This method sometimes results in crashing into obstacles which leave him concussed! But he’s keen, and it works … sometimes.
Hi is the kind of guy who buries his head in the sand. He is convinced that the good times are going to come back, so he decides his approach to managing change is to stay where he is and wait for the situation to get better.
Ho goes with the flow. He doesn’t quite know what to do about managing change, so he listens to the other people saying that things will get better soon, and accepts it. But after a long while he realises that change needs to happen and he’s the one to do it. So he makes changes, but has no strategy.
To me the four characters represent the way in which business owners go about managing change:
• Snitch. He has the information he needs, but he doesn’t use it.
• Scamper. He goes with his gut instinct, and sometimes gets the right results.
• Hi. He believes that things will get better eventually, but for now he needs to keep things going as he always has.
• Ho. He eventually realises he must change things, and at that stage implements whatever actions he thinks will work.
I don’t know about you, but I think there’s a fifth person (or rat?) missing. My fifth person would be the one who:
• Gets the right information about what is happening and why,
• Listens to what others say about managing change, then tests it against the facts,
• Uses the information to test his gut instinct and make informed decisions,
• Accepts that the situation needs to change, and
• Uses the information to create the right strategy for managing change, then
• Monitors what happens and adapts his strategy throughout the process.
This book has a great quote – it says “I’ve learned to see change in a whole new way – not as something to be feared, but as something to be embraced”. Perhaps if our approach to managing change was like my fifth person, we wouldn’t resist change, but instead use it to transform our businesses.
Download your copy of “Who Cut the Cheese” and start managing change in your business.