What We Actually Say in “The Alliance”

Dan Lyons’ op/ed in the New York Times last week misrepresented The Alliance in a big way. His op/ed was promoting his new book, which bashes HubSpot, a company he worked at for a couple years. In his book, there is a brief but even more distorted description of the tour of duty framework. Reid, Chris, and I wrote a response to correct the record, and we published it on Chris’s LinkedIn page. Excerpt:

The Alliance is an attempt to find a better way for companies and employees to relate to each other. Specifically, we suggest companies and employees build trust incrementally and choreograph increasing levels of mutual commitment by defining “Tours of Duty.” A tour of duty, which might last anywhere from six months to six years depending on its mission, ought to spell out what an employee is trying to accomplish, how achieving it benefits the company, and how that achievement accelerates the employee’s career. As a tour of duty draws to a close, the manager and employee meet to discuss a follow-up tour. By giving employees a clear sense of career development, we’ve found that companies that adopt the Alliance Framework improve employee retention and lengthen job tenures. Loyalty builds over time, as both sides make and keep their mutual promises to invest in each other.

In his book, Dan writes, “Hoffman says employees should think of a job as a ‘tour of duty’ and not expect to stay for too long.” In fact, in The Alliance, we write at length about the perils of short termism. We tell the story of an employee who worked at one company (LinkedIn) for nine years and completed three distinct tours, and conclude: “This seeming contradiction— regularly changing roles in the context of a long-term relationship— is the essence of the tour of duty framework.”

At the heart of our framework is the importance of building high-trust relationships. In The Alliance, we write, “Our goal is to provide a framework for moving from a transactional to a relational approach…By building a mutually beneficial alliance rather than simply exchanging money for time, employer and employee can invest in the relationship and take the risks necessary to pursue bigger payoffs.” Here’s how Dan describes our framework: “In [Hoffman’s] view, a job is a transaction, one in which an employee provides a service, gets paid, and moves on.” It makes you wonder whether he actually read our book!

Developing a Reputation as a Career Launch Pad

Common Ground Tuesday NEXT 2016

During a recent keynote speech, I made a point that is central in The Alliance and central to our consulting work at Allied Talent: If you develop a reputation — as a manager, as a team, as an organization — for being a career launch pad instead of a career parking lot, the best people in the industry will do anything to work with you.

Big Think Interview on Future of Work

As a longtime viewer of Big Think videos, I was delighted to sit down with them to record a bit on The Alliance and future of work. It’s me for three minutes with their famous white background, talking straight at the camera:

Compassionate Management and Career Conversations

I wrote a piece on LinkedIn about compassionate management as a fundamental philosophy behind The Alliance. You can check out the post here — it’s been getting some traction. It opens this way:

In The Alliance, we attempt to resolve one of the most difficult questions of modern management: how do you build strong, long-term relationships with employees when you cannot guarantee lifetime employment and when employees do not pledge lifelong loyalty?


I then go on to describe how to build trust through really understanding your team member.

I also reflect a bit on hearing management legend Ken Blanchard speak at the Blanchard Summit, where I recently keynoted.

Adam Davidson on the Hollywood Model of Work


Adam Davidson, one of the most interesting economics writers working today, published a provocative piece in the New York Times magazine over the summer titled What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work. Excerpt:

Our economy is in the midst of a grand shift toward the Hollywood model. More of us will see our working lives structured around short-­term, project-­based teams rather than long-­term, open­-ended jobs. There are many reasons this change is happening right now, but perhaps the best way to understand it is that we have reached the end of a hundred-­year fluke, an odd moment in economic history that was dominated by big businesses offering essentially identical products. Competition came largely by focusing on the cost side, through making production cheaper and more efficient; this process required businesses to invest tremendous amounts in physical capital — machines and factories — and then to populate those factories with workers who performed routine activities. Nonmanufacturing corporations followed a similar model: Think of all those office towers filled with clerical staff or accountants or lawyers. That system began to fray in the United States during the 1960s, first in manufacturing, with the economic rise of Germany and Japan. It was then ripped apart by Chinese competition during the 2000s. Enter the Hollywood model, which is far more adaptable. Each new team can be assembled based on the specific needs of that moment and with a limited financial commitment.

The other month he spoke with Russ Roberts of Econtalk about his article. It’s an engaging conversation and they talk about The Alliance in the context of Adam’s thesis. At least a dozen people emailed me Adam’s original NYT Magazine piece — so I’m glad they were able to riff on The Alliance a bit on the podcast!