Chess Not Checkers

I recently read Mark Miller’s new book Chess Not Checkers and found it a rewarding read.

This book tells the story of Blake Brown and his trials and tribulations with being a new CEO of a company going through trouble.  In the story, Blake enlists the help of Jack Deluca, a former CEO with a record of success who also happens to be a chess grandmaster.  Blake visits Jack several times throughout the story to learn the secrets to developing a successful organization.

Essentially, Jack instructs Blake, through the metaphor of chess, on four key points:

  1. Great organizations require and encourage leadership at all levels.
  2. The entire team must align to a unified mission and a core set of values.
  3. Great leaders take time to learn about people’s strengths and put them in places where they can use those strengths to succeed.
  4. To grow and move forward, organizations must execute plans consistently and doing that requires everyone knowing expectations and roles as well as being continually aware of the progress being made.

Nothing earth shattering here, but it always begs the question as to why more business leaders don’t seem to get it.  These are basic principles that are proven over and over to lead to success yet I am flummoxed as to why they are seen as new-age psycho-babble or too touchy feely.

Anyway, I found Miller’s tale a good one and it kept me interested.  It was a quick read too.  I read it in a couple of sittings.  It is well worth the time reading and then a little time reflecting on how to apply things.  I can only hope more business leaders will take these lessons to heart.

The only quip I have, and this is one I have with many of these short business stories, is the way the main characters all become so cheery and bubbly.  By the end, they are cracking corny jokes and sounding like an episode from a fifty’s era family show like Leave It to Beaver.

Outside of that, I found the book enjoyable and affirming of things I truly believe in.  I have only read one other Mark Miller book, The Secret, and found this one an equal.  If you’re struggling as a new leader or looking for ways to improve the performance of your team or organization, read them both and take action.


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