Change management: Who
moved my cheese?
past decade has seen unprecedented upswings and downswings in the tech
sector. It has consequently become imperative for IT professionals to have
the foresight and resilience to survive in changing times. Mohan Babu
gives an insight into change management
The book Who
Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson is a must-read list for all techies. I
happened to read it a while ago and was struck by its simple yet striking
message, that is relevant to most of us in the IT industry. We live in
changing times but are yet to come to terms with the changes being brought
on us. Even though we can prepare for changes, we cannot control the
cause-and-effect of economic, environmental and geopolitical changes that
indirectly affect our lives and careers.
The story of
Who Moved My Cheese is a simple parable that can be interpreted as you like—
at work or in your personal life. In the story four characters live in a
“maze” and are always hunting for “cheese”. There are two mice named Sniff
and Scurry, and two little people called Hem and Haw, who are the size of
mice but look and act like people. “Cheese” is a metaphor for whatever you
want to have in life—job, relationship, health, peace of mind. And the
“maze” is where you look for it. The story shows what happens to the
characters one day when the cheese has been moved to another part of the
maze. Some are prepared for it and do well. Others have a tougher time. As
you observe how the mice react, you may see a part of yourself. When Haw is
finally able to see what he is doing and laughs at himself, he moves on and
finds “new cheese”, while Hem remains cocooned in his comfort and fears and
is left behind. As Haw progresses through the maze, he writes on the walls
what he has learned about change, hoping his friend Hem will find his way.
The story ends with Haw realising that when you can read the “Handwriting on
the wall”, you can do well in changing times.
decade saw an unprecedented upswing and downturn in the high-tech sector.
During the early to mid nineties, large companies became obsessed with the
need to prepare their systems for Y2K. Realising that they had to scan
through millions of lines of legacy code to fix the bug, they hired hundreds
of consultants. During this time the dotcom boom too was taking off,
requiring hundreds of thousands of coders. This sudden demand for IT
professionals caught the industry unawares. Technical schools weren’t
producing enough technologists and software professionals were elevated to
rock star like status at companies. Many Indians (myself included) were
fortunate to partake in this massive rush to fulfil the global demand. A lot
has happened since then: The Y2K and dotcom boom have been relegated to
history books. The tech sector has all but seen a meltdown; economy has come
to a grinding halt and the September 11 terrorists did their bit to help
tighten immigration laws.
going to be a part and parcel of our personal and professional lives. I
should know: I still consult for Worldcom that recently declared the largest
bankruptcy in corporate history. Gone are the days when one could join a
“large faceless” corporation, become an Organisation Man (I’m not trying to
be sexist but am quoting the title of famous book by William Whyte titled
‘The Organisation Man’), and go on working for the company till retirement.
Even with all the changes taking place around us, recently laid-off and
downsised IT professionals are finding it hard to comprehend the sudden
change in their professional trajectories but the fact remains: like the
mice in ‘Who moved my cheese’, we should have seen it coming. And, having
experienced this tumultuous shift in the industry, we should accept the
“Handwriting on the wall” and move along.
management is especially significant for Indian IT professionals who need to
be acutely aware of trends and transformations taking place in the key
markets for their services, viz. the US, UK, Canada and other western
countries. Indian IT is a part of the global economy and is going to be
affected by the upswings and downturns happening in different countries
around the world.
weekly column for ‘IT People’, and constantly receiving and responding to
mails from readers from across the globe has made me acutely aware of the
havoc that changes can cause in our personal and professional lives. It is
hard to theorise about the impact of corporate downsizing and layoffs,
change in career paths etc. However, most of us in the IT industry are
coming to realise the importance of being prepared for changing times.
Networking and keeping skills updated definitely help, but we also need to
be aware of the process of preparing for and accepting the changes wrought
by business and economic conditions and other external factors.