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Who Cheesed My Move?

“Who Moved My Cheese,” by Dr. Spencer Johnson, sold over 26 million copies.  It’s an incredible best-selling book.  Join us on this episode of The People Catalyst Podcast where Allen Fahden and Karla Nelson discuss how you can remove the frustration of bottlenecks within your business when dealing with change.

Listen to the podcast here:


Karla Nelson:  Welcome to the People Catalysts Podcast, Allen Fahden.

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, Karla, I’m looking forward to today. It’s different.

Karla Nelson:  Yes, different. As we always say, people are different, and this is different. We’re definitely taking a road in focusing on very specific tasks and very specific books that we’re going to analyze and then add on that are awesome, that we’re going to add on something that can help them be as useful as possible to the people that are reading them. For today, one of my favorite books, “Who Moved My Cheese” is what we’re going to be talking about by Spencer Johnson. “Who Moved My Cheese” sold 26 million copies worldwide in 37 different languages, is a really great book, and Allen and I have talked extensively in regards to the book, what they’re trying to point out, why it’s important, and then we’re going to also talk about what’s missing here. It was definitely a successful book. My goodness, if you sell 26 million copies of a book and it’s in 37 different languages, that’s pretty fantastic.

Then, we’re also going to add on why the three distinct lessons in “Who Moved My Cheese” is … It’s definitely a lesson, definitely we need to pay attention to it. It’s just not necessarily identified in how we deal with change, and that’s really what “Who Moved My Cheese” talks about. For all those out there that have read the book, we have four characters that are in the book, and there’s three specific lessons, which is, one, thinking too much about cheese … You’re going to see that come out in Hem and Haw, which are two of the four characters. Then, when you expect the cheese to just continue to come to you, that that’s not going to always be the case as we’ve seen in, well, goodness, Kmart, Sears,-

Allen Fahden:  Blockbusters.

Karla Nelson:  … Blockbuster, right, tons of different companies that we’ll get into when we talk about Built to Last and Good to Great that everything changed. Things have to change. Also, that there’s always new cheese to be found. You’re always moving. Things are always evolving, and as Airbnb, Uber, gosh, what other company? Netflix, they changed the game. They’ve actually made the cheese bigger in what they’ve done. We’re going to talk about why “Who Moved My Cheese” was amazingly successful, and it’s a great book, and then talk about what’s missing, and how do you get this from A to point B to point C to point D, and get to what Warren Buffett always says, which is, he hates innovation.

Allen Fahden:  He wants a predictable cashflow. That’s not innovation, that’s certainty.

Karla Nelson:  Exactly. We’ll talk about how do you get to the point where you’re changing, and then repeating the same thing over and over and over again, and then we’ll talk about this surprising truth about the fact that we have to focus on the law of diffusion of innovations, and really identify what part of the work people do best at what time, and kind of it doesn’t take anything away from “Who Moved My Cheese,” we’re going to add onto it, and say, “This is how you can take what was taught to you, but then get to a point of coming up with the idea,” which we’ll talk about is the ideation phase, and then the implementation phase, which is completely different, with two different point guards that you need to identify, and give them the ability, honestly, across all areas. Give them the ability to lead at the time that they are going to shine best, in starting from ideation to implementation.

Awesome. Go ahead.

Allen Fahden:  One of the questions I always have is, it’s sold 26 million copies. Does that mean that 26 million people read the book and then transformed their attitude toward change, and were suddenly able to make and accept large amounts of change?

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, no. Just answer that one for you right now. No. That is not what happened.

Allen Fahden:  Just checking.

Karla Nelson:  But the stats show is, what’s the percentage of people who only read the first, and if you only read the first chapter of “Who Moved My Cheese,” oh my gosh. What was that? Seven pages?

Allen Fahden:  Yeah. 70% of the people who buy business books read only the first chapter.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, exactly. Again, I love this book. It’s really cute. The way that it states how people think about things and how they get too much into their mind. Hem and Haw are always going, “What should I do?”

And then you’ve got Sniff and Scurry, who, they just go. They’re like, “I’m putting my shoes on. That cheese got smaller. I’m going somewhere different.”

You can identify, but at the end of the day, it’s not one individual that is going to affect change. What we’re going to talk about is, is change going to happen? Absolutely. It’s incredible, and I always love the stat that we talk about, Allen, that Demmy identifies, which is 94% of failure is processed failure, it’s not people failure, and how many books are about people?

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, that’s true. There’s another little quote that fits in there nicely, too, and that is; people want to change, they just don’t want of be changed.

Blockbuster, you’re hanging onto your last store in Anchorage, Alaska or something like that, out of 10,000 stores. They got changed. They didn’t change, they got changed. They got it handed to them.

Karla Nelson:  Yes. Who survived that change, too, is amazing. Out of Blockbuster, what were there? Three different locations left a year ago, now there’s one? Basically, the way they changed was to be able to- and there was like, what? 10,000 stores or something like- they were a gigantic organization. I think they have one location, and the only focus that they have, which is niching themselves out. Think about that. Oh my gosh. 10,000 locations, down to one, is they only have movies that you can’t get on livestream, that are in some specific niche. Think about that. So many other companies that didn’t change, and that’s why “Who Moved My Cheese” is fantastic, because we have to assume change, especially in this world, with technology and blockchain and AI. It’s just constantly moving. Who thought that the largest hotelier in the world would never own a piece of real estate? It’s just crazy. What we want to talk about is that “Who Moved My Cheese” is a great book, however, we also need to look at how people deal with change differently based off their core nature of work, and of course that’s Mover, Shaker, Prover and Maker.

A Mover, based off of their core nature of work, and I’ll take this one, you can take the Shaker one, is a Mover in that certain situation that things are changing, is what is their run home to mommy, because each core nature of work, regardless of the fact that change is going to happen, because it always is going to happen, we respond to it differently, and I think that’s the piece with “Who Moved My Cheese” is they kind of separate everybody. You’ve got Hem and Haw, and they’re supposed to be the people, and then you’ve got the two mice that are Sniff and Scurry, and it’s like, one just responds. The challenge with that is that we’ve got early adopters and later adopters. We got people that do respond quickly, but they typically respond, which I find kind of interesting in “Who Moved My Cheese,” it’s just one answer. That is not what Shakers do. It’s not one problem, it’s that problem, and then, “Let me solve that one, that one, that one, that one, that one, that one, that one, that one, that one.”

They’re going to continually look for different answers to solve problems to, and each of the four core natures of work, which is necessary just as a relay team is your Mover is always going to look at a situation to change, is going, “Hey, we already decided to do X, Y, and Z. We can’t move this, this and this. We can’t identify all the people that we need now. We just told them what we needed to do two weeks ago.”

For a Mover, I think, their biggest adjunct, and they’re your best individual to go to in regards to adopting a new idea. 15% of the population are Movers, and they are the individuals that will say Yes to a new idea, but at the same time, you can see them pushing back on a new idea if it’s going to adjust anything that they already agree to.

Allen Fahden:  Because they want to stay on purpose. Stay on schedule.

Karla Nelson:  The prioritization. You already agreed to it. We already went here. We already did this. This, of course, we’re talking about implementation, not ideation. When you get to ideation, I think, Movers are a little bit more open in that regard. Do you want to talk a little bit, Allen, about Shakers, and why Shakers are going to push back and not adopt a new idea?

Allen Fahden:  Yeah. Shakers are fine with any idea as long as it’s mine. I’m a Shaker. What we’ll do is we’ll just keep generating ideas, and generating ideas, and they look the same to us. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll never quit generating ideas, and pretty soon people will get tired of it, and we won’t get anywhere.

Karla Nelson:  Yes. Exactly. Again, a Mover is going to adopt it more easily simply because they like good ideas, but a Shaker is going to say No because if it wasn’t their idea, it wasn’t their idea.

Allen Fahden:  Not my idea.

Karla Nelson:  By the way, I can’t tell you every time I’ve sat in a room with a Shaker and I was like, “Okay, either I have to make them think it’s their idea, or we’re just not going to get anywhere with this.”

Of course, Allen, you could talk to a Prover, and their run home to mommy on each of their core natures of work in focusing on change, why they would stonewall change associated with anything in business or life.

Allen Fahden:  Yeah. Because a Prover can see around corners and tell you what’s going to go wrong. They’ll say, “I don’t want to do that, that has to much wrong with it. That’s a problem. That’s a problem. It’s not going to work. We’ve tried it before.”

It’s so easy for a Prove to come up with what’s going to go wrong that they’re just not going to buy into any idea unless it’s been talked through.

Karla Nelson:  Yes. A Maker, that’s a whole other area, and Provers and Makers can kind of share a lot of the same characteristics in regards to pushing back on the idea, but the Maker actually doesn’t even want to be in the meeting. I think that’s a huge part about being a Maker. I think that gives people total freedom, when they’re a Maker, and you’re not expecting that of them.

Allen Fahden:  That’s right. They just want to do real work. They just want to run their checklist, and make sure that everything’s running smoothly, and that everything’s in its place.

Karla Nelson:  Yes, and do not- it’s so funny. We have the most incredible team, and I will never have a meeting with a Maker unless I’ve got my Prover as my point guard when we’re trying to implement something, and the reason why is because I cannot get to the point of breaking down the “system” in a specific step one, step two, step three. When it gets to a Maker, if you’re not recording a video which shows exactly what needs to happen or create a very specific checklist, you’re probably giving them sever anxiety. Understanding that is completely critical. Looking at this, with “Who Moved My Cheese,” and I love the premise of things change. We’ve seen that. Gosh, look at the Fortune 100. It changes so significantly who’s on it. Look at the unicorns that have popped up. At the end of the day, though, it is important to change. You have to be prepared to change. I think the big thing that most individuals are missing is that you have to take into considerations people’s core nature of work. What is the run home to mommy when you are trying to get something? First, figure out what you’re going to do, and the second piece is, okay, now you got to do it.

You want to talk to that a little bit, Allen? About ideation and implementation?

Allen Fahden:  Yeah. They’re really, when you’re talking about change, change is like everything else. It’s sequential. It’s got a beginning, a middle, and an end, and at the beginning, the people who are most fired up about change are the Movers and the Shakers, and they’re also the people who are best poised to take the leadership at that time because their core nature is to propose new things and then launch them, plan them out. That’s the time, that’s the ideation phase, and if we can get everybody involved at just the right time, doing the right thing, then it’s successful. Unfortunately, not many people know how to do that, and so what happens is then the ideation phase, the Shakers and the Provers fight. “I’ve got an idea.”

“That won’t work.”

“How about this idea?”

“No, we tried that before.”

And so on. They’ll just go on, and you’ll get nowhere, and then in the implementation phase it’s a little bit different. The leadership changes. The Movers enter the buffer between the Prover and the Shaker in the ideation phase, but once you get to implementation, that’s where you’ve got a thought-through idea that you’re ready to roll on. Then it changes, and the Prover takes the leadership, and manages the Maker, because that idea is now-

Karla Nelson:  That is so critical. I’m just going to repeat that. In the ideation stage, which is, “This is what we’re going to do. This is the change.”

It’s a change to marketing, it’s a change to branding, it doesn’t matter what the change that you are implementing. This is, “What are we going to do, and how do we get everybody’s buy-in from it? How do we make it the best idea we can?”

There’s the ideation. But, man, I will take a mediocre idea any day over the best idea in the world that you can’t then move to a point of implementation, because you have to get it done, and you have to repeat it over and over again, and the person that comes up with the idea, the person that facilitates that, the individual that finds the technology that’s going to help you implement it the best, and the person that’s going to repeat it, we’re talking about four different people. I love that, what you said, Allen, which was, that is the crux of who do we look to in leadership? At what time and what we’re doing? And identifying the fact that, after you get to ideation, really looking to the Prover, and the person that’s going to figure out, what the heck are we going to do? And who’s going to tell the Maker how to do it over and over and over and over again? I really think that the Mover and the Prover juxtaposing ideation and implementation is so critical in that change standpoint, because we’re responding to change differently.

Allen Fahden:  Correct, yeah. I think that that’s something that the book doesn’t really go into, and unfortunately, without that, the changes that they propose, and kind of the theme of the book and everything, the outcome, basically they’re just left trying to motivate people to change. “Here, you want some cheese? There’s no cheese down this way, so go down this way and you’ll get some cheese.”

That’s basically a motivational message. Here’s a reward, there’s no reward there.

Karla Nelson:  Love it. That seriously just looks down the way, and we’ve talked about this several times over again is, that you can’t complete the change without the later adopters, and they’re only talking to the early adopters, the ones that are okay to change.

Allen Fahden:  Yep. How many dead initiatives are there in every company, where they just couldn’t finish them, because the finishers pushed back, the Provers pushed back because there was too much wrong with it, the Makers pushed back because it would be too disruptive to their daily routine? Without taking that into account, you’re basically stuck with the book being a motivational piece, and intrinsic motivation is the effective part, and extrinsic, which is cheese, is not nearly as effective.

Karla Nelson:  It talks about the why, but then breaking it down and realizing that we all respond to change differently, and we need everybody, but we just don’t need you at the same time.

It is a team effort. The best way to make it is a team effort. One of our favorite books. Spencer Johnson did a great job in writing it, and obviously, 26 million copies sold worldwide in 37 different languages. Fantastic book. We’re just trying to add on a little bit behind it, and we have to talk about the why, but we have to also add in the who, and the when.

Allen Fahden:  Absolutely. Without it, it becomes another disappointment.

Karla Nelson:  Good point. Yes. That’s the frustration that we see in business. That you read, and read, and read, and learn, and learn, and learn, and then all of a sudden you’re like, “Well, wait a second. I’m still missing something here.”

Or you’re trying to do it all yourself, which is 1% of the population, and you wonder why you’re so bad at it, or you get so frustrated by it.

Allen Fahden:  There’s a part, every person when they’re in their peak work zone, meaning I’m a Shaker, so my peak work zone is coming up with ideas, but then once you select an idea, I need to leave the room, because I’m not very useful, and what’ll happen to me is I’m going to start going comatose, or worse yet, I’ll start making up stuff and being disruptive to the rest of the group because I’m going to come up with some pretty bad gibberish in something I’m not very good at.

Every person’s got a time when they shine with their peak work. When they’re in their absolute strength zone, and they’re knocking it out the park.

Karla Nelson:  Yes. That’s exactly what we come down to with, “You just have to accept change.”


It’s like, yes, we do, depending on who you’re talking to, but we need everybody.

Allen Fahden:  There’s a big distinction is that you might like the idea of something. “It’s a worthy thing to do, let’s put 10% of our revenue into feeding the poor.”

However, if we put your role in doing that is sitting in a room all day, messing with spreadsheets to try to make sure that all the food goes out in the exact proper proportions to people, then your role in it is going to kill all your enthusiasm for the problem. You’re motivated to feed the poor, but you’ve got such a rotten role in it that your motivation all goes away, and you go comatose, or you get mad and leave, or whatever happens.

Karla Nelson:  We respond to it differently. We’ve said this over and over again, this amazing truth about work. We create all of this work for 1% of the population, but you know exactly what I’m going to say here, Allen, is People…

Allen Fahden:  Are…

Karla Nelson:  Different.

We respond to it differently. We write these books, and we put everybody, and it’s not that the truth is not the truth, it’s, at the end of the day, you have leaders going, “Okay, this is truth. This is great. Where do I go from here?”

That’s exactly what we want to share, is that the lessons the awesome, they’re true, and being, obviously, the People Catalysts is that we are on a mission to change the way work is done, because, Allen, you being such a significant Shaker, and working with you, I don’t expect you to do the things that you’re not good at, and, guess what, I can understand and forgive the items that that’s just your core nature of work. You’re in your best walking around going, “Here’s 50 ideas. Here’s 50 ideas. Here’s 50 ideas.”

Understanding that that’s your best role, and I think I get the same leeway in that, and then of course we have Kevin on our time who is like the Prover from the Prover world. We have got such extreme individuals in each of the four core natures of work on the team, and then we can understand it, and then go, “Guess what? I can appreciate it. I’m not frustrated by it.”

It’s why 70% of people, and this is not me saying this, this is Gallup saying it, hate what they do every day, because they’re not-

Allen Fahden:  Yes indeed. I love what I do, thanks to you, because you honor me for who I am, and I just walk around and come up with ideas, and then honoring you for who you are, I give you a list of ideas and say, “Pick the best one. What do you think?”

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, exactly. That’s what we want to bring to “Who Moved My Cheese,” and you’ll be hearing about many, many, many other business books we’ve read over a long period of time that are very popular, simply because if you get the premise of the book, and that’s fantastic, we want to take it a little bit deeper in regards to how do you find a team in order to figure out what you’re going to do, run the ideation piece of it, and then implementation piece of it, and how do you look to the different individuals on your team that, and honestly if you don’t get to the Makers, the fact is you can’t even create a business that’s going to be scalable, because that is the business that, as we talked about earlier, Warren Buffett, he hates innovation.

Allen Fahden:  To have a business you need a replicable pattern at which you can make money, and cashflow is happiness.

Karla Nelson:  Exactly. Actually, Allen, that brings us back to someone else we quote quite frequently on the podcast, which is Demmy, which is 94% of failure is process failure, it’s not people. Everybody wants to point the finger at who’s responsible, but at the end of the day, it’s typically the process that you created. It’s not a person that didn’t do X, Y, and Z. It’s the process by which you implemented something.

Allen Fahden:  Right. If you want to get from the beginning to the end, from the start to the finish, with “Who Moved My Cheese,” pay attention to our sequel to “Who Moved My Cheese,” which is Who Cheesed My Move.

Karla Nelson:  That’s awesome. Awesome. Wonderful. Look forward to us digging down a little bit more into all these fantastic business books that we have read, and we will see you next time on the People Catalysts podcast.

Allen Fahden:  Thank you.

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