Remember the book “Who Moved My Cheese” written by Spencer Johnson, M.D. that was wildly popular in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Maybe the graphic below will spark your memory.

The book outlined the story of four characters, Hem and Haw, and Scurry and Sniff, who went to a maze each day to gather cheese. One day when they got to the maze, the cheese had been moved. It then recounts how each of them responded to the situation at hand.

As companies embark upon the transformation from a manual Accounts Receivable process to an electronic Accounts Receivable platform, they often start to see these “characters” emerge within their organizations. Just as the situation was in the book, the associates are responding to the change effort that is underway and different individuals respond in different ways.

The “Hems” within the team won’t say anything vocally, but there will be an underlying resistance to the change, and they will be slow to adapt to new approaches and new processes. This resistance is primarily driven by the fear of the unknown and a concern as to whether or not he/she can perform the role that is expected of them in the future.

“Haws” on the other hand are very vocal: “HAAWWW, that’s never going to work!”; “We tried that once, it doesn’t fit here.”; “I’ve done it this way for X years, nobody knows my job like I do, there’s no need to look at a change.” These individuals again are grappling with a lack of confidence that they will be able to adapt and be successful in the new environment. Status quo is “safer” and more comfortable.

Those team members that are anxious to move forward, but challenge what is being proposed and ask very detailed questions around how things will unfold are the “Sniffs” within the team. They want to ensure they understand the ins and outs of why the Receivables Management Automation is occurring and the details of how it will be deployed to make sure it makes sense.

The “Scurrys” are all about motivating everyone. They are excited personally about the change and what opportunities it may bring to them, and they want to build excitement about what’s going on with everyone else. This level of high energy and positive focus within the organization is imperative to driving the change forward and leading the change management efforts.

As we work with organizations to lead them through their Receivables Management System deployment and the change management efforts that accompany the transformation, we find that most organizations also have a lot of “cheese”. That “cheese” takes on one of two forms: hard cheese and soft cheese.

“Hard Cheese” represents those individuals that are set in their mold. They are unmotivated to move; they don’t want to change; they are potentially burnt out. They may represent those individuals that have “quit and stayed”. In other words, they have lost interest and their passion quite some time ago, but continue to show up every day.

The opposite of that is “Soft Cheese.” This category represents the bulk of an organization. These individuals meld to whatever is the mainstream. They go with the flow. They wait to see how the majority is going to respond and then they follow along.

If you think about your company and/or the individuals you work with, you can probably make a mental list of who fits into each of the categories outlined above. Understanding how individuals are going to respond to Accounts Receivable transformation effort (or any change for that matter) is critical to driving that change successfully.

For leaders, being acutely aware of how your teams are going to respond to the change is not only important relative to how you lead the team through the change, but also important to evaluate as a part of organizational design and workforce skill set assessment.

A few key things to consider as you start down that path of Accounts Receivable transformation:

  • Strive for several change agents (Scurrys) in key roles.
  • Introduce a few challengers (Sniffs) as a sounding board to keep things on target and realistic.
  • Reassure those individual that are struggling with uncertainty about their role (Hems) by answering the Who, What, Why, When and How questions and by providing training and support.
  • Determine how many non-supporters (Haw’s) and how many unmotivated associates (Hard Cheese) you can sustain within your organization.
  • Start working early to determine an equitable exit strategy for those that don’t fit in the new design.

And most importantly……. hope for a lot of Soft Cheese!!

Do you have any tips on how to identify and manage the Hems, Haws, Scurrys and Sniffs in your organization when change is brought into your organization?