In response to a client’s need to assist team leaders grasp and engage with some required internal change an old story was retold. The underpinning framework guiding the work that was done in Hong Kong and Singapore was that of Spencer Johnson’s ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ Much of the cheese is now of course ‘blue cheese’ but it still tasted very good!
Required reading coming into the day, there was some murmurings amongst the delegates given how old this framework was and how embarrassingly simple it seemed to appear. Yet, as we were to discover, there is nothing ‘simple’ about change. We all know it is necessary, even essential, yet what change requires of us individually and collectively is seldom simple and never easy. Most of these concerns were swept aside when the CEO shared about how he had shared the book with his family and it had provided stimulating discussion amongst his kids, the oldest of whom as 12. So although there was ringing endorsement from the highest authority in the room for the story, the fact that his oldest child was merely 12, did sit a little uncomfortably with those of the ‘too simple’ objection. Nonetheless, the account of Sniff and Scurry; Hem and Haw (the characters in the maze of ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’) once again reveal the power embedded in story to deal with the complexities that change and adaptation demand. John Kotter is another author and consultant who has understood the power of story and has cleverly employed story in shaping own his work around change. His best selling book, ‘Our Iceberg Is Melting’ as well as other expressions of his work have continued with the theme of using story to good effect.
It proved to be refreshing to dust off an ‘old story’ and use it to once again guide us through the ‘maze’ in order to locate ‘new cheese’. Having authored, ‘Everything I know about leadership I learnt from the kids’ you can bet that ‘if it is good enough for the kids’, then it is good enough for me in the work I do with senior executives!
I seldom waste an opportunity in a bookstore to browse the ‘children’s’ section’ hunting for stories that can be used with leaders. The consequence is bookshelves in my study that have a curious mix and array of titles that might easily lead one to think that I share this space with my grandkids. Of course, I don’t (yet) have any grandkids!