The Case For An HR Critique Partner

Image Credit: sdecoret/

What could the world of publishing offer us in terms of a helpful approach?

In earlier posts I’ve given some examples of where risks HR losing sight of the wood for the trees by making process dominant, or slavishly following ‘best practice’ whether it fits the business involved or not. And the main premise of my argument is how easy it is to fall into doing this – how we all (myself included) – no doubt do this on occasion and how hard it is to see ourselves doing it.

Fine – but what do we do about that? In its way, it’s a type of process unconscious bias, and all things unconscious are difficult.

Thinking about this made me reflect on the experience in the publishing/writing world. I’ve been dabbling in that myself – and may or may not one day see success out of it. But the journey itself has been fascinating.

And one of the things deeply ground into the publishing process is the value put to critique and editing. Any writer who wants to be successful has to face up to their writing ‘tics’ – their blind spots, their literary mannerisms, plot holes in novels and so on. And what all writers learn, early on, is that they need the unattached viewpoint of others to refine their work and let them see things they miss because they are too close to their own work.

And I mean all writers. If I recall correctly it was Ernest Hemingway said: ‘The first draft of anything is (expletive deleted)’. I’m not going to argue with him about writing!

Certainly writers can pay for editors, or get editing support if they get a publishing contract. But many writers these days take advantage of a generous aspect of their writer community: writing critique partners.

Critique partners review each other’s work and give feedback and insights. They agree between themselves how harsh or gentle the feedback, but each proceeds on a trust that honesty will be upheld and true support given. They put the time into genuinely considering their partner’s work, and benefit from the return in kind. And this normally means that by the time the writer is sending their work to publishers to consider, it is a much better product than that first draft!

Is this something HR practitioners could benefit from? I don’t mean formal mentoring (usually by more senior and experienced people) or even coaching (within its particular parameters). Both those have their place, but I’m thinking more of peer to peer support, reviewing approaches and policies and processes from a first principles basis by a peer unattached to the outcome involved (including commercialy unattached).

This sort of exists already in some HR processes, where peer reviews are baked into the process. But I’m thinking of something that isn’t just a compliance based approach – something about perspective and growth in the same vein that writing critique partners support each other. Something that isn’t aimed at determining a positive or negative compliance/performance measurement – something more organic and philosophical rather than judgemental. But still, something with a formal structure around it – not just networking and ‘comparing notes’.

What do you think? Does it already exist anywhere? Have you seen this done or been involved in it yourself, and if so how does it work and what benefits have you seen? Does it help the participants identify and get beyond their own blind spots and unconscious beliefs?

And if so (or even if it doesn’t really exist anywhere yet) is it worth developing something like it and trying it out?

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