Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life, published in 1998, is a motivational book by Spencer Johnson written in the style of a parable. It describes change in one's work and life, and four typical reactions to said change with two mice, two "little people", and their hunts for cheese. A New York Times business bestseller since release, Who Moved My Cheese? remained on the list for almost five years and spent over two hundred weeks on Publishers Weekly'''s hardcover nonfiction list.
Allegorical, Who Moved My Cheese? features four characters; two mice, "Sniff" and "Scurry", and two little people, miniature humans in essence, "Hemingway" and "Haw", live in a maze, a representation of one's environment, and look for cheese, representative of happiness and success. Initially without cheese, each group, the mice and humans paired off, travel the lengthy corridor searching for cheese. One day both groups happen upon a cheese-filled corridor in "Cheese Station C". Content with their find, the humans establish routines around their daily intake of cheese slowly becoming arrogant in the process.
One day Sniff and Scurry arrive at Cheese Station C to find no cheese left but they are not surprised. Noticing the cheese supply dwindling, they have mentally prepared for the arduous, but inevitable task of finding more cheese beforehand. Leaving Cheese Station C behind, they begin their hunt for new cheese together. Later that day, Hem and Haw arrive at Cheese Station C only to find the same thing, no cheese. Angered and annoyed, Hem demands "who moved my cheese?". Unprepared, the humans have counted on the cheese supply to be constant. After verifying that the cheese is indeed gone and ranting at the unfairness of the situation, both head home hungry. Returning the next day, Hem and Haw find the same cheeseless station. Beginning to realize the situation at hand, Haw proposes a search for new cheese, but Hem, dead set in his victimized mindset, nixes the proposal.
Meanwhile, Sniff and Scurry have found "Cheese Station N", a new supply of cheese. Back at Cheese Station C, Hem and Haw, affected by their lack of cheese, blame each other for their predicament. Hoping to change, Haw again proposes a search for new cheese. Hem however, comforted by his old routine and afraid of the unknown, again knocks down the idea. After many days in denial, including a search for cheese behind the wall of Cheese Station C, the humans remain without cheese. One day, realizing his debilitating fear, Haw begins laughing at the situation. Realizing he should move on, Haw enters the maze, but not before chiseling "If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct" on the wall of Cheese Station C for his friend to ponder.
Still fearful of his trek, Haw jots "What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?" on the wall and, after thinking about it, begins his journey. Still with worry, perhaps he has waited too long to begin his search, Haw finds some scattered cheese and continues his search. Slowly losing his denial, Haw realizes that the cheese has not suddenly disappeared, but has dwindled from continual eating, and that the older cheese was not as tasty and had been moldy. After a let down, an empty cheese station, Haw begins worrying about the unknown again. Brushing aside his fears, Haw's new mindset allows him to again enjoy life; he has even begun to smile again and is realizing "when you move beyond your fear, you feel free." After another empty cheese station, Haw decides to go back for Hem with the few bits of new cheese he has managed to find.
Uncompromising, Hem turns away the new cheese to his friend's dismay. With knowledge acquired along the way, Haw heads back into the maze. Still going deeper into the maze, impelled by bits of new cheese here and there, Haw leaves a trail of writings on the wall, hopeful that his friend will be aided by them in his search for new cheese. Still traveling, Haw one day comes across Cheese Station N. Abundant with cheese, some varieties strange to him, he has found what he is looking for. After eating, Haw reflects on his experience. Pondering a return to his old friend, Haw decides to let Hem find his own way. Finding the largest wall in Cheese Station N, he writes:
Cautious from past experience, Haw inspects Cheese Station N daily and explores different parts of the maze to prevent complacency from setting in. After hearing movement in the maze one day, Haw realizes someone is approaching the station. Unsure, Haw hopes that it is his friend Hem who has found the way.
With over five million copies in print, Who Moved My Cheese? has spawned many variations, two of them by Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese? For Kids and Who Moved My Cheese? For Teens: An Amazing Way to Change and Win!. Transcending culture and borders, 1.6 million copies have been sold in China Chinese books, published in 2002, inspired by the "cheese" concept, variations and critical answers to Johnson's books include:
Additionally, parodies have been based on the "cheese" concept: