From the President: Who Moved My Cheese?

Who Moved My Cheese?

Change. I love change – at least when the change I’m experiencing is something that I instigated or decide is a welcomed change. Whether it’s a job change, a change in where we live, a new hair style, a different vehicle, a new friend to socialize with, as long as it’s a change that I’m welcoming, change is good – sometimes even exhilarating. But, when change is unrequested or something that is occurring at the hand of someone else, it’s often no longer a welcome occurrence. Whether it’s much needed change or a change that you never in a million years would ask for or a change that was inevitable, change often comes with resistance.

Over the course of my 26 years working in the municipal planning and administration field, I had the opportunity to experience a multitude of leadership changes. Municipal elections would generally change up the composition of the public policy makers every two years. And in the case of the City of St. Cloud, it is one of three cities (St. Paul, Duluth & St. Cloud) in the state of MN that operate as a Strong Mayor form of government. The Mayor in these cities really function more as the CEO in managing the day to day operations of the City with near full authority for hiring, firing, budget creation & execution, and even veto authority over ordinances. So, every four years the potential for a new CEO to be voted into the office of Mayor would present itself.

As I reflect upon the dramatic contrasts between each of the 4 Mayors I worked for during my tenure with the City of St. Cloud, I realize how much those experiences helped me develop life and career skills in adapting to change. Al Loehr, Sam Huston, Chuck Winkelman and Larry Meyer. All brought radically different skills, personalities and priorities to the office. Because department managers ‘serve at the pleasure of the Mayor’, every election cycle was approached with a degree of trepidation.  

Shortly after Larry Meyer was elected and assumed the role of Mayor, he gathered the department managers and presented each with a copy of the book, “Who Moved My Cheese?’ by Dr. Spencer Johnson. Mayor Meyer was being proactive in introducing and attempting to equip the management team he was inheriting in dealing with a host of changes he was intending to institute at city hall. Of the many professional development books I’ve read over my career, this is the one I believe may have resonated most for me.

The forward to the book, written by Kenneth Blanchard, PhD, captures the storyline well:

Who Moved My Cheese? is a simple parable that reveals profound truths about change. It is an amusing and enlightening story of four characters who live in a ‘Maze’ and look for ‘Cheese’ to nourish them and make them happy.

Two are mice named Sniff and Scurry. And two are little people’ – beings the size of mice who look and act a lot like people. Their names are Hem and Haw. ‘Cheese’ is a metaphor for what you want to have in life – whether it’s a good job, a loving relationship, money, a possession, good health, or spiritual peace of mind. And ‘The Maze’ is where you look for what you want – the organization you work in, or the family or community you live in.

In the story, the characters are faced with unexpected change. Eventually, one of them deals with it successfully, and writes what he has learned from his experience on the maze walls.

When you come to see ‘The Handwriting on the Wall’, you can discover for yourself how to deal with change, so that you can enjoy less stress and more success (however you definite it) in your work and your life.

Written for all ages, this story takes less than an hour to read, but its unique insights can last for a lifetime.

The face of our community and our region is changing, and it’s changing pretty rapidly. While some of the changes have enjoyed a high degree of acceptance and adaptation (e.g. new traffic management features like roundabouts and diverging diamond interchanges), other changes have not (e.g. the wave of new residents to our community, particularly immigrants and refugees). 

As our community continues to ‘walk through the maze’ of changes and challenges of effectively integrating and welcoming all new residents, particularly immigrants and refugees, may the wisdom of the parable, “Who Moved My Cheese”, serve as a guide to all to see “The Handwriting on the Wall”. For the GSDC, we remain guided by the Mission, Vision and Values of our corporation:

Mission: We lead economic development for the benefit of the Greater St. Cloud community.

Vision: Greater St. Cloud is a growing and vibrant community where talented people choose to live, work and engage.


            Leadership: We inspire trust.

            Diversity: We benefit from differences.

            Collaboration: We engage partners.

            Integrity: We do what we say.

            Accountability: We create results.


Posted on May 12, 2016 .