BOOK NOOK: Spencer Johnson’s ‘Who Moved My Cheese’

Tuesday November 28 2017

An allegory of four characters, Hem and Haw,

An allegory of four characters, Hem and Haw, two little people and Scurry and Sniff, two mice, Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life was published in September 7th 1998 and became an instant success. PHOTO| COURTESY 

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An allegory of four characters, Hem and Haw, two little people and Scurry and Sniff, two mice, Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life was published in September 7th 1998 and became an instant success.

The two mice and the two little people are searching for cheese, a symbol of accomplishment and contentment.

Both mice and men find a long corridor full of cheese.


Hem and Haw do what humans do by establishing routines around their cheese consumption. Haughtiness takes over as days go by.

One day, the cheese runs out and the two mice are mentally prepared for it having noticed prior that their favourite food was dwindling fast. The two little people find their cheese gone and get infuriated.

They took it for granted that the cheese supply will never dwindle and thus unprepared of the new developments.


The two mice move on and find a new station full of great quality cheese of all types as Hem and Haw are left blaming one another for their misfortune.

Haw however seems flexible mentally and proposes to his friend that they move on in search of novel cheese. Hem is not ready having taken in their old humdrum so intensely that he comforts himself with it.

Change scares him. After living in denial for some time, Haw sees the light and decides to move on once the cheese has completely disappeared.

As he cruises along the maze he finds bits of cheese here and there.


 As he treks down the maze (their surroundings) Haw writes secrets he has learned and adopted along the way such as “If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct” on the wall of their current station where cheese has run out and “What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?” along the way. Haw moves on warily, still jarred by worry and wondering whether he has taken too long to start his search for a new sustainable amount of cheese.


Along the way, Haw comes across some little chips of cheese and nourishes himself as he moves on hoping for a better find.

Haw realises that their cheese had not vanished suddenly as they thought but repetitive consumption had depleted it.  At one time, the journey tires him down within another empty cheese station that brings back depressing anxiety about the future.

However, Haw's mind-set had changed so much that the fears are brushed aside allowing him to live without apprehension and enjoy the pursuit of happiness even bringing back his smile.

Haw has learnt that beyond one's fears is total freedom.


Nonetheless, Haw seems unlucky as he only comes across empty cheese stations. He remembers his friend Hem and takes the long journey back to hand him a few crumbs of cheese he has come across during his expedition. The adamant annoyed Hem not only refuses Haw's new cheese, but also shows no intention of bulging. It is not clear whether he is disappointed, proud, stubborn, hardnosed, stupid or all these. This disappoints Haw and using the knowledge and insight learned in his journey thus far he resumes his expedition to find cheese.


Haw is motivated and encouraged by bits of cheese he finds along and looks into the future and leaves behind lots of insights inscribed on the wall.

These insights not only clarify his mind about many things, but also keep him motivated and hopeful that when Hem wakes up from his denial he will use the writings to his benefit.

One day, Haw finds Cheese Station N, the same cheese station the two mice had found earlier.

The abundance of cheese in the Cheese Station N is so dumbfounding that all the cheese varieties take him aback including the mere quantity of the food.


Haw realises he has, after a long trek, found the station of his dreams, the object of his desire.

He enjoys the different brands of cheese as he reflects about his journey and the experience so far.

Remembering his old acquaintance Hem and pondering whether to go for him, he makes the decision that Hem like any other person must find his own way; he has even left him writings that will motivate him along the journey.


Haw finds a sizeable wall of the new cheese-full station and writes out what he has learned to the effect that change happens, change should be anticipated, change should be monitored, change should be adapted to fast, change is a must, change should be enjoyed and one should be ready to change without notice and enjoy change all over again. Haw has learned from his experience and doesn't take anything to chance again remembering the depressing realisation when their cheese had run out.

He constantly explores different areas of the station inspecting everything avoiding being complacent, rigid, routine and dogmatic about the place. Haw has learned very well from past events.

One day, he hears some movement within the maze as a figure approaches Cheese Station N. He is not sure who the person is and his hope is that it is Hem who has finally found the wisdom and instigation to move on.

Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese is a story that seeks to move readers to adjust their attitudes about change, which is unavoidable in life, particularly at the workplace.

He makes it clear that whether you believe in change or not, ready or not for it, change will always occur.

An inspiring and to the point book compelling the reader to live in anticipation of change, the thought provoking story is all about making personal changes to live a better life, pursue happiness and remain joyous all along.