I’ve been connecting with HR thought leader, Steve Browne, on Twitter for several years. As a fellow HR writer and blogger, I was thrilled when he announced that he was writing a book, and even happier to learn that it had been published. Sitting down to read Browne’s HR on Purpose has been on my list since it hit the shelves.
I finally bought a copy and I was not disappointed—I read it front to back in less than a week and came away with eight pages of notes! HR on Purpose takes readers on a journey with personal stories that illustrate how Browne puts his passion for people to use for the organizations he serves.
Which do you prefer—checkers or chess?
Rather than being a business book that aims to elevate the author and alienate the reader, Browne’s approach is playful as he shares stories that readers can use and which they will remember for years to come. In one chapter, Browne asks readers to consider if they’re practicing HR as a game of checkers, or a game of chess. That question—which one of his managers asked him years ago—caused me to stop and think, not only about how I approach my work, but also about how I approach life.
“HR practitioners who practice as if they’re playing checkers move in straight lines either forward or backward. They are more concerned with ‘getting things done’ so they can reach the other side of the board and get rewarded. This is much more of a short-term, task-oriented approach. It may have bursts of success, and we’re able to cross tasks off lists, but the pace never ends,” Browne writes in HR on Purpose.
“HR practitioners who practice as if they’re playing checkers move in straight lines either forward or backward. They are more concerned with ‘getting things done’ so they can reach the other side of the board and get rewarded.” Steve Browne, HR on Purpose
What are the advantages of playing chess?
In recent years I’ve come across a lot of writers, authors and leaders who say HR needs to be more strategic. But considering strategy as a game of checkers vs. chess really hit the point home for me in an actionable way. A strategic, chess-like approach to HR:
- Allows room to shift gears and adjust as needed when parameters change
- Assumes multiple competing strategies and views which have to be addressed to make progress
- Encourages a flexible plan for what’s coming rather than relying on decisions made in the moment
“HR played like chess is much different,” Browne writes. “This approach takes into account multiple players who have various skills. It also acknowledges that the return move by the other team will not be predictable. HR as chess involves strategy and various ways to conduct counter moves throughout the game. You can position yourself well and look ahead at what may happen.” At the end of the chapter, Browne puts the next play in readers’ hands by saying, “Pawn to E4. It’s your move.”
“HR as chess involves strategy and various ways to conduct counter moves throughout the game. You can position yourself well and look ahead at what may happen.” Steve Browne, HR on Purpose
I’m using his pawn play as a reminder for how one can put this checkers vs. chess comparison to use. As one goes about their work, they can ask themselves two questions:
- Am I approaching my work with a task-oriented view: moving from one square to the next to get to the other side?
- Or, am I constantly looking at the full board, evaluating how other players move, and establishing a plan for where we’re headed?
Regardless of whether you’re new to HR or have been practicing HR for decades HR on Purpose offers new perspectives. It’s full of inspiration, passion, and practical advice that you can use in your career as an HR professional. (And maybe even in your life!)