Who Moved My Cheese, I Moved Your Cheese, and Tribal Leadership

In Who Moved My Cheese, Spencer Johnson (@RedTreeLeaders) introduces the parable of four characters (mice and “littlepeople”) who live in a Maze and look for Cheese. Cheese is a metaphor for “what you want”. The Maze is a metaphor for “where you look for what you want”. As the characters deal with unexpected change (the Cheese being moved), they discover how to deal with change: “Change Happens”, “Anticipate Change”, “Monitor Change”, “Adapt to Change Quickly”, “Change”, “Enjoy Change”, and “Be Ready to Quickly Change Again and Again”.

In I Moved Your Cheese, Deepak Malhotra (@Prof_Malhotra) extends the fable with three unique and adventurous characters (mice) who refuse to accept their reality as given. Rather than chasing after the Cheese, they individually escape the Maze or reconfigure it to their liking, thus creating new realities: “The problem is not that the mouse is in the maze, but that the maze is in the mouse.”

In Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, Dave Logan (@DaveLogan1), John King (@KingOfLA), and Halee Fischer-Wright focus on how leaders leverage natural groups to build thriving organizations (based on a ten-year, 24,000 person, organizational research study). They introduce five cultural stages (theme, mood, relationships):

  • Stage 1 – “Life sucks”, Alienated, Undermining;
  • Stage 2 – “My life sucks”, Separate, Ineffective;
  • Stage 3 – “I’m great (and you’re not)”, Personal Domination, Useful (Dyadic);
  • Stage 4 – “We’re great (and they’re not)”, Stable Partnership, Important (Triadic); and
  • Stage 5 – “Life is great”, Team, Vital (Triadic).

The chasm between Stage 3 and Stage 4 is huge, and Stage 4 is the realm / zone of Tribal Leadership. For more information on Tribal Leadership, please see Tribal Leadership Distilled: Paradigm, Process, and Model and Tribal Leadership in a Nutshell.

While Who Moved My Cheese and I Moved Your Cheese offer a compelling metaphor for approaching change using Mice, Cheese (and it being moved), and the Maze (and its walls), Who Moved My Cheese and I Moved Your Cheese generally offer a less compelling metaphor for approaching leadership, culture, and strategy.

Consider Stage 2, “My life sucks”, and ask why? Because someone (who) moved my cheese. Consider Stage 3, “I’m great (and you’re not)”, and ask why? Because I moved your cheese. Consider Stage 4, “We’re great (and they’re not)”, and why? Because its our cheese! Consider Stage 5, “Life is great”, and ask why? Because there is cheese for all! The five cultural stages can be expressed using this metaphor:

  • Stage 1 – “Life sucks”… “No Cheese!”;
  • Stage 2 – “My life sucks”… Who Moved My Cheese;
  • Stage 3 – “I’m great (and you’re not)”… I Moved Your Cheese;
  • Stage 4 – “We’re great (and they’re not)”… “Our Cheese!”; and
  • Stage 5 – “Life is great”… “Cheese for All!”

Using the metaphors of Mice, Cheese (and it being moved), and the Maze (and its walls), Who Moved My Cheese generally focuses on Tribal Leadership’s Stage 2 (“My life sucks”) and I Moved Your Cheese generally focuses on Tribal Leadership’s Stage 3 (“I’m great (and you’re not)”) with an I-centric view and not authentically offering a focus on Stage 4 (“We’re great (and they’re not)”) with a We-centric view and Human Leadership.

Today’s world demands thriving on chaos in an age of discontinuity — where the past is plagued with incoherence & inconsistency, the present is plagued with chaos and ambiguity, and the future is plagued with unpredictability & uncertainty — and requires more holistically appreciating the interdependence of culture and performance as well as strategy and leadership (and synchronization).

Please see Cheese Moving: Effecting Change Rather Than Accepting It and 3 Reasons Why Business Books Are Bad for You for more.


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