Book “The Alliance” and Lessons for Learning Organzations

Personal branding and Tours of Duty? Can learning organizations learn lessons from the book The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, which calls for a bold, new blueprint of conducting business?


We realize that lifetime employment in one organization is a thing of the past, especially considering the average U. S. worker median tenure in a current job to be 4.4 years, a trend which is perhaps silently influenced by the invisible “second economy.”

But, whatScreen Shot 2014-07-20 at 2.23.39 PM would happen in learning organizations if we capitalize on a bold, new blueprint of conducting business? Imagine the shift of hierarchical power play giving way to Tours of Duty, networking, and branding based on the mutual benefit of employer and employee? Those are a few founding principles found in the book The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age by Reid Hoffman, co-founder and chairman of LInkedin, Ben Casnocha, entrepreneur and author, and Chris Yeh, writer and investor.

While organizations cannot innovate if everyone acts as a free agent, the authors contend there is another pattern to growth (Check out their slideshow here.): “Stop thinking of employees as families or free agents” but, rather, regard them as “allies on a Tour of Duty.” The relationship between employee and employer is based on how each can add value to the other, thus, building trust. In this symbiotic relationship, the individual, while building personal brand, focuses on the organization’s success, while the organization increases the individual’s market value.

While the authors admit that the phrase “Tour of Duty” may have military implications and it isn’t a perfect analogy, there is a shared characteristic: “honorably accomplishing a specific, finite mission…with a realistic time horizon.”

Because roles and responsibilities vary, the authors outline three Tours of Duty: Rotational; Foundational; and Transformational. (For more information on the Tours of Duty, click here.) “The tour of duty approach relieves the pressure on you [organization or business] and your employees alike because it builds trust incrementally. Everyone commits in smaller steps and the relationship deepens as each side proves itself.”

The agreement between employee and employer within each Tour of Duty sets out specific growth goals for each. One example: “Over the next 18 months you will develop excellent negotiation skills.”  (Avoiding vagueness, such as gaining “valuable experience,” is key.)

But, what is one important turnkey in this model? The authors acknowledge the benefit of honest conversation and ask a potential employee: What do you want to do once you leave employment here?

There. The elephant in the room is acknowledged and provides the basis for building the symbiotic relationship of trust and success for both parties through Tours of Duty, building value of the organization and the independent individual.

And, even when an employee leaves the organization, the value continues as networks and “know how” remain within reach of the organization, which is able to tap into the web of connections it helped the individual create. (The alumni always stay in touch.)

Wow. I wonder how this upfront frankness about career goals and schools helping their employees grow to transform an organization would pan out. While there are numerous reasons teachers leave the classroom, would these honest conversations help stem the tide of 38% of teachers quitting because of dissatisfaction with administration or the 14% who leave after one year? Are industrial-style schools and slow-moving bureaucracies ready for this truthful conversation with themselves and others, including teachers, students, and parents?

There are some transformational movements taking hold, such as the Center for Teaching Quality’s work on building a new brand of teacher leadership through teacherpreneurs, and Connected Educators Month, to strengthen teacher learning networks and the connections the authors believe valuable. But, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to incubate ideas using this new approach to acknowledge and nurture talent in the networked age? Aren’t there implications not only for teachers but students as well?

I’m game for a discussion. Are you? Interested in a book study? Let’s connect! 

Running the Digital River of Learning with You,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s