Saturday, February 28, 2009

Who moved my Cheese?

Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change In Your Work and In Your Life by Spencer Johnson

It's a very "old" book... but it's an evergreen book... very long shelf life! Still find new copies (duno after how many re-publications) in book shops!

Have this habit of signing on books I bought... to mark down when it became my collection - it was Year 2000. Wah! Almost 10 years ago. Think, it was around the time I went for my DDM course, when the rest of the "one minute" books made their way to our hands!

The first time I read, vaguely remember my takeaway...

  • it's mixed with anxiety... maybe... 'cos I just took up the headship to lead a department... yeap, perhaps, I thought (and yes) I found my cheese... something that never crossed my mind that I would do. I would never dream of setting up and leading a Commerce Department while my trained discipline has totally nothing to do with it! This is unlike admin work when we could pick up along the way. It requires content expertise... Well, I picked up that cheese and chewed... hahaha...
  • I would never dream of handling the ICT department! Well, the ICT Masterplans had 'offered' another flavour of cheese to me! It came in "abundance" - that lasted me for more than 5 years! and I continued to find new cheese that's along this flavour subsequently.
  • Of course, the biggest one is when I really physically walked out of my comfort zone - and "renounce" almost all I have for a year. Was that considered a new cheese? I'm still not too sure... but definitely, it has allowed me to apply all I had gained, my experiences to a totally alien environment - and there, I "discovered" there were so many things that I didn't know I could do! But the biggest "C" I discovered was really, COURAGE.

In the last 2 weeks, I was wondering... what to share in the EXCO meeting... thinking hard and shopping hard, too! Ha! Within 2 weeks, spent more than $500 on books! That's wild! Isn't it? Especially in this groomy economy. The books are still lying there... read a couple of them... useful... but could not quite sieve out the essence... ok it takes time! especially for a slow reader like me. Nevertheless, this time, I bought a couple of audiobooks - and one of them is "Who Moved My Cheese"! Had been listening to it a couple of times... and at last, some fresh thoughts came...

Yes, many a time, we would take it as a personal development guide - to guide our own thoughts and actions... But... How about from an organisation's point of view? I thought it's refreshing! Well, bringing it into the current situation - when the school is still in the infant stage... - yes, certain pointers are really helpful.

Here are the few...

(1) The reaction from the littlepeople and the mice when they discovered their cheese was gone:

What! No Cheese?
No Cheese? No Cheese?
Who moved my Cheese?
It’s not fair!

It sounded comical - why this happened? Didn't they notice that the cheese had been disappearing? (Ok, there's no mentioned about why or how it disappearing... though it could be one of them forgot they had the last bit or actually there were other than the 4 characters but were not mentioned in the story?) But lesson learnt here is really, do not take things for granted! It's always the case whereby we showed appreciation when we were given help and support to get things done... however, after a while, such consistent 'dosage' of support and help leads to dependency and subsequently would lead us forgetting that these are privileges, but as regarding them as entitlements!!! (which is a very scary situation to become!)

(2) The more important your cheese is to you, the more you want to hold on to it.

This is really true, the important a certain thing is - be it an object, a belief, a practice - the more reluctant we are willing to give up or put it aside. In the first place, when it's important, it means it has shown its value - which could be a foolproof practice from past experiences, it could be something that one holds dearly to because of emotional value.

In fact, we bring along lots of these "baggages" with us - which we all feel that's where we could contribute and value-add to the growth and development of the new school. On the other hand, here, we want to innovate, we want to integrate practices that are absent or not common in mainstream schools - How do we manage both?

Our plate is always full. When I first joined ETD, we wanted to 'market' the use of ICT in learning while the most commonly cited reason for not using ICT is where got extra time to carry out such frills! The first and easiest thing I could thought of is, "Why not, tell teachers that they could substitute such selected existing activities with the ICT-integrated ones!" That solves the time issue. However, this is a most superficial way to encourage people to use our products (i.e. the ICT resources) - but it is not telling people why need (choose) to use our product!

The PURPOSE is important - that is, the use VALUE-ADDs to the pupils' learning experiences! Experiences encompasses not just the in classroom experience, but the increased degree of understanding and skills they acquire that prepare them beyond that activity moment!

Now, back to the present context... though we have brought along lots of good practices (that had been proven effective), to innovate and bring about new ways to learn, we must be able to identify practices that would be better with the use of new practices (and technology)! It's not a matter of substitution, but it's a new way of practice! Are we ready for this? Are we ready to, first, give up/shelf some of our beliefs? Hopefully, this is something observable in our curriculum design and execution of our programme.

This indeed, goes well with the next one...

(3) The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese.

Having immersed in the cheesy environment - we must be alert to the changes of the environment, that is...

(4) Smell the cheese often so that you know when it is getting old.

Scan! Scan! Scan! Yes, internal scan (that we are very familiar with)... but here, external scan is even more important - to be sensitive to the changes in the external environment! Otherwise, we'll become the frog in the well, unknown to us that the well gets deeper and deeper each day! This is really through the 10-year experiences in the school. While we think we innovate... it's when I was immersed in a different environment then we notice there's so much changes out there... of course, like an unofficial scout, that's when we brought back some goodies through channels we know of to the school!

Something I read from "Eat That Frog!" that's relevant here... "One of the worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not be done at all"!


Last, but not least... Who's the Cheese Mover???? Has anyone asked Spencer Johnson this question? I wonder... or it's left to us to figure out? Some thoughts:

  • The changing environment. That's why we have to be responsive to the changes out there and react in a timely manner. It's survival!!!
  • The trendsetter! The adventurer! The trailblazer! Yes, we are the cheese mover! and we want to be the cheese mover! ... while we seek the new cheese for ourselves :D

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