Friday, October 9, 2009

Who Moved My Cheese?

Spencer Johnson, M.D., wrote a book about four fictional characters faced with change. Two of the characters, Sniff and Scurry, are mice. There are also two human characters that are the size of mice. All four live in a maze. The mice are quick to move on as soon as their cheese disappears. Their human counter-parts handle change like most of us. This author is also the co-author of the "One Minute Manager". There have been over twenty four million copies of the book, "Who Moved My Cheese", sold worldwide.

I read this book while still working for Goliath. It helped me to change my attitude. I realized that I was not entitled to anything. For me, the cheese represented my workplace. It was shrinking quickly and becoming moldy. All of us were so used to living in the maze that we did not know there could be a better life if we just moved on. This book gave me inspiration to leave Goliath.

In the summer of 2004, the first one of us at Zoom left the maze. He would report back about his life outside the maze while the rest of us planned our departure. During the next six months, we carefully mapped out our exit strategy. I was the last of the Zoom partners to leave the maze. There wasn't much cheese left when I departed and the people left behind were beginning to see the writing on the wall.

My last day with Goliath was memorable. There was not enough cheese to go around and I had my running shoes on for my escape. The date was February 8, 2005. I did not walk out of the building, I ran. There was some new cheese waiting for me and I could not wait to join my Zoom partners. We met that evening to finalize our start-up plans. The next day we presented a well-crafted business plan to our ex-boss who sold out to Goliath exactly five years and one day earlier. We told him that his role would be to join with us and allow us to use his reputation to give us credibility. We promised that we would do all the work provided that each of us would be an equal.

Five days later, on Valentine's Day, we got a report that five top people walked out of the maze. They all realized that their cheese had been moved and they wanted to get out. We nick-named this day the "Valentine's Day Massacre." Our goal was to capture 10% of the market share. We knew that if we could take just a little bit more cheese away from Goliath, the place would fall like a house of cards.

We were ready for the change that we had prepared for during the preceding twelve months but Goliath was not. The suits were flying in from the east coast and entering the maze, trying to figure out what was happening to "their" cheese. In their meetings, they told their employees that they would not allow us to steal the cheese they were entitled to. They declared war on Zoom. It got so bad that if you spoke the word "Zoom" in front of the suits, you were fired. Suddenly we became known as "Mooz" which is Zoom spelled backwards. We were the topic of many conversations while the suits hemmed and hawed about their stolen cheese.

In about five months, we will be celebrating our five year anniversary at Zoom. It took some time to find our way out of the maze but now we are eating many new flavors of cheese. Goliath finally shut down the maze and laid off over 4,000 people earlier this year. They got out of the cheese business and stopped trying to mess with us.

A video clip of the movie, "Who Moved My Cheese" is below. I highly recommend that you read this book if you find your cheese is getting moldy. This lesson applies to all areas of your life. I promise you, there is some really good cheese out there. All you need to do is put on your running shoes and go after it. Stop starving yourself.

Have a great weekend!

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