"Who Moved My Cheese?," the 1998 book by Spencer Johnson, uses cheese as a metaphor to explore how differently people deal with change. The tale has been used ever since by businesses to help employees address change and stress. In fact, the United States Department of Labor lists this book as one that has shaped work in America. The most common activities teach about reflection, discussion and transformation.
One concept from the book is to transform adversity into a personal advantage. To get started, divide a large group into pairs. Give each person an index card and ask each one to list personal challenges they have overcome in the past. The pairs then swap cards. This activity is designed to help everyone recognize that everyone else faces change as well. Ask each person to determine which character from the book to whom they most relate. You may find that most people behave just like Hem, who resists and avoids change, but want to behave more like Haw, who tackles it and learns from the new circumstances.
Ask a large group to think about the many times major change take place in their lives. Create a list of these. Then, ask the group to think about times when they worried about a change that was about to occur. Create a list of ways to deal with impending changes and categorize these ways as positive or negative. Label each way as a strategy one of the characters of the book would adopt.
A strong sense of resiliency and flexibility distinguishes how Hee and Haw address the pressure of change. To demonstrate this, distribute a pencil and a pipe cleaner to each person. Show how a pencil can’t bend and negotiate through a maze in the way a pipe cleaner can. Start a group discussion about how you can face complex problems and fix them or least adapt to the situation.
To help workshop participants demonstrate an understanding of recognizing “the writing on the wall,” have them create a mural of new versions of phrases from the book. Make these phrases relate to real experiences. Acknowledging that changes can be dealt with in a positive manner may help people move through difficult periods of personal challenges, organizational upheaval and continuing uncertainty. For example, Hewlett-Packard recommends employees who lose their job read this book to prepare for change.