IT look to big cheese


Mark Lewis

If you've attended any IT conferences recently, you may have been surprised to see fellow delegates spending their coffee breaks engrossed in a slender book that looks more Janet and John than Charles Handy.

Despite its toytown metaphors, Dr Spencer Johnson's book is a cautionary tale of real value.

Johnson's story grapples with the concept of change, and how to deal with it. "If you do not change," it warns, "you can become extinct." Given the seismic shifts in traditional business models instigated by the Internet revolution, this is a message the IT department would do well to take on board.

Who Moved My Cheese? is set in a maze, where two mice - Sniff and Scurry - and two humans - Hem and Haw - spend their days searching for cheese.

Their problems begin when Cheese Station C runs out of cheese. As soon as Sniff and Scurry realise this, they take off to find new supplies, which they find.

For Hem and Haw, the change in circumstances bring a less positive response. They greet its disappearance with first denial, then anger and then fear of the "blind alleys" of the maze.

It is Haw's learning curve that forms the backbone of this book. His realisation that "life moves on, and so should we" contrasts with Hem's desire to stay put. By conquering his fear of the unknown and venturing out into the maze, he is able to join Sniff and Scurry.

Haw realises in hindsight that the stocks in Station C were growing smaller, and is wise enough to see that change can only surprise you if you don't look for it. As he puts it: "Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old."

Kid's stuff? Maybe, but it's a lot more fun than an analyst's report, and probably a lot more instructive.

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This was first published in March 2000

 

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