By Molly Schaffner

Recently, I was laid off—a fate not too uncommon these days. Did I see the writing on the wall? No, not really. I was very comfortable in my position.

Yet in this era of an uncertain economy and accompanying layoffs, none of us can afford to be afraid of or unprepared for change. Studies show that today’s worker can expect to be employed by five different employers and hold eight to 10 different jobs in a lifetime. In other words, don’t get too comfortable.

Change doesn’t have to be as dramatic as a layoff. Whether your organization is about to undergo new system installations or a major reorganization, your staff must learn to accept change.

But how do you approach change in the workplace? And how do prepare your staff for change? Are there major changes going at your workplace that you’re having trouble managing?

Clearly, change is a challenge for today’s organizations, particularly in IT. Perhaps that’s why Who Moved My Cheese?, by Spencer Johnson, remains such a popular book.

How do you deal with change?
Everybody deals with change differently, but Johnson’s story illustrates the four primary ways of approaching change through his main characters, Sniff and Scurry, two mice, and Hem and Haw, two people.

All four characters start out in a maze where they encounter cheese. They have all the good cheese they can eat. (Sound like when you first started your job?)

Life is good, until one day when they discover that the cheese has been moved.

Sniff had already sensed that the cheese might be moved and wasn’t fazed when it was gone. Scurry had not planned on the cheese disappearing, but he did recognize that the cheese probably wasn’t coming back. Therefore, he knew he should seek out new cheese rather than wait for the old cheese to return.

Sniff and Scurry muster the courage to head out into the maze in search of new cheese, reasoning that there’s bound to be more cheese in the world.

But Hem and Haw are not so clever. Because they had become so comfortable with their present cheese situation, Hem and Haw decide to wait for the cheese to return. Haw eventually realizes the cheese is not coming back and strikes out through the maze in search of new cheese. But Hem never learns and remains behind, desperately hoping the old cheese will return.

Of course, Sniff and Scurry find new cheese, and it’s better than the last cheese. Haw eventually finds the new cheese but also regrets that the experience got the best of Hem.

The moral of the story
Who Moved My Cheese? is a simple parable with an easy to understand message: What matters most is the attitude we have about change.

But that’s easier said than done.

Managing change

We’d like to hear how you deal with and prepare your staff for change. What is your strategy as an IT manager? Share your thoughts and ideas by posting a comment below.