Human beings are creatures of habit, which is why Spencer Johnson sold more than ten million copies of his book, Who Moved My Cheese?. Business executives sit down to PowerPoint presentations based on it, and depressed patients watch the Who Moved My Cheese? video during group therapy in hospital psychiatric units across the country. (Who would have thought corporate America and psych ward programs had so much in common?)
The story is about two mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two “Littlepeople,” Hem and Haw, who live in a maze of cheese stations, some filled with cheese and others empty. When Cheese Station C runs out of cheese, the two mice immediately search the maze for other cheese stations, while Hem and Haw overanalyze their situation, convinced that one day the old cheese will return to Station C if they keep on going there.
Haw eventually leaves Station C, realizing he’s going to starve if he doesn’t start looking for a new station. Along the way he writes messages on the wall like “Movement In A New Direction Helps You Find New Cheese” and “The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Find New Cheese,” which serve to motivate him in his search for new cheese and to remind him that going back isn’t the solution; they are also markings for his buddy, Hem, should he decide to follow.
After a little while in the maze, Haw stumbles on a station with a few chunks of new cheese. Even though the types of cheese are strange-looking, like nothing he has ever seen before, he immediately devours them. He puts a few pieces in his pocket to take back to his buddy, Hem, who is still stuck in Station C.
As stubborn as he is starving, Hem turns down Haw’s offer of cheese. “I want my own cheese back,” he says.
“Suit yourself,” Haw says, as he begins to let go of the past (good times at Station C) and adapt to the present. He inscribes the maze wall with more bits of wisdom, like “Noticing Small Changes Early Helps You Adapt To The Bigger Changes That Are To Come.”
Finally Haw discovers Cheese Station N, the tallest mound of cheese he had ever seen, where his mouse friends Sniff and Scurry welcome him and invite him to eat from the abundant supply. Their full bellies tell Haw that they have been there awhile.
On the largest wall of Cheese Station N, Haw draws a large piece of cheese around all the insights he has gained. They are:
- Change Happens. They Keep Moving The Cheese.
- Anticipate Change. Get Ready For The Cheese To Move.
- Monitor Change. Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old.
- Adapt To Change Quickly. The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese.
- Change. Move With The Cheese.
- Enjoy Change! Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste of New Cheese!
- Be Ready to Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again and Again. They Keep Moving the Cheese.