When interviewing prospective recruits or to get people focused on what is important to them, I often ask people a simple question to provoke them to think and to talk, although not always in that order. One question I often use is for people to think of themselves on their deathbed and consider ?What am I proud of in my life?.
The objective of the question is for people to be able to remind themselves what is most important; self-enlightenment, self-career, self-education, friends or family. For many people who are caught up in the hurly burly of day to day life, focusing on what is really important is difficult.
Another question is for people to imagine themselves at their retirement function and what reputation would they be proudest of in their retirement speech. Is it the reputation of being a specialist, a carer of people, a leader, a manager of people or an achiever? The objective being to understand what about their work motivates them the most. The answer is what they concentrate on in their job.
In the world of change management, the book ?Who Moved My Cheese?? by Dr. Spencer Johnson (co-author of The One Minute Manager) provides a series of statements and questions provoking the reader into understanding what is stopping them from accepting, embracing and looking forward to change.
The book story is a simple parable of four characters who live in a “Maze” and look for “Cheese” to nourish them and make them happy.
Two are mice named Sniff and Scurry. Two are “little people” – beings the size of mice who look and act a lot like people. Their names are Hem and Haw. “Cheese” is a metaphor for what you want to have in life – whether it is a good job, a loving relationship, money, a possession, health, or spiritual piece of mind.
“The Maze” is where you look for what you want – the organization you work in, or the family or community in which you live.
In the story, the characters are faced with unexpected change. Eventually, one of them deals with it successfully, and writes what he has learned from his experience on the maze walls.
When you come to see “The Handwriting on the Wall” you can discover for yourself how to deal with change, so that you can enjoy less stress and more success (however you define it) in your work and in your life.
To get a full understanding, you have to read the story, but here is some of the “Handwriting on the Wall.”
Change Happens. In the book, they keep moving the cheese. In real life technology changes, aging populations, easy capital movements, migration flows and the ever increasing ability to access knowledge enures that change will continue to happen.
Anticipate Change. In the book, the characters who anticipate change find the new cheese first. In real life those who can anticipate change beat the competition whether it is coaching methods in sport, share market movements or career.
Monitor Change. In the book, the suggestion is to smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old. In the real world it may be about sensing when you or your organisation is in a rut and life is changing around you.
Adapt to Change Quickly. In the book, the characters, except for Hem, learn that quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy the new cheese. In the real world, we often carry the baggage of fixed positions inappropriate for a changed environment.
Change. Move with the cheese. In the book, the characters who move with the cheese find new cheese and prosper whilst Hem fades into obscurity. In real life the people who actually make the changes needed in their life to accommodate changes in their environment succeed more often than those who do not.
Enjoy Change. In the book, the mice learn to move to the new cheese by trial and error, learning to anticipate change without thinking. Haw learns to savour the adventure of change and the taste of the new cheese. In real life the journey of change can be enjoyed with the repeated excitement of doing something new once it is mastered.
Be Ready to Quickly Change Again and Again. In the book, the cheese keeps moving. In real life, change is not even constant. It is accelerating as technology grows exponentially.
If you are managing change consider the following from the book; ?If you do not change, you can become extinct?. Use the statement to provoke a reaction and get a discussion going.
Then ask the people you are managing and yourself the question; ?What would you do if you were not afraid?? Their answers and your answer may surprise you.