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The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age Hardcover – July 8, 2014

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Editorial Reviews Review

Daniel Pink interviews Reid Hoffman / Ben Casnocha / Chris Yeh

Daniel H. Pink is the author of Drive, To Sell is Human, A Whole New Mind, and other books about business and behavior.

Every so often a company comes along that transforms the world of work. LinkedIn is one of those companies. Since its founding more than a decade ago, it has become the place where professionals build, maintain, and nurture their networks. For millions of people from all over the globe, LinkedIn is a source of opportunities, talent, even inspiration.

But its founder, Reid Hoffman, isn’t content with merely building a hugely successful company. He’s also established himself as one of the most interesting thinkers in Silicon Valley. His first book, The Start Up of You, written with longtime collaborator Ben Casnocha, encouraged individuals to think of themselves as entrepreneurs, even if they were collecting a W-2 paycheck.

Now Hoffman and Casnocha (with Chris Yeh) are back with a new book, which takes a smart, fresh, (and occasionally bracing) look at the evolving relationship between the bosses and the bossed. It’s a terrific and accessible read that provides business leaders with both insights and tools to handle a world in which talent is paramount.

Pink: One of the many things I like about The Alliance is that you take on the notion that successful companies are “families.” Explain.

Hoffman / Casnocha / Yeh: Some CEOs like to refer to their companies as families. The concept of family is a powerful one, and describes how the best companies treat their people: with compassion and respect. Yet we believe that using family language is a big mistake. The problem is that families are permanent--you can't fire your kids, no matter how many times they may forget to take out the trash. Companies are not permanent. The instant you lay off an underperforming employee, or someone leaves to pursue a better opportunity, the illusion of family is shattered. The only way to maintain the fiction is for people to lie to themselves and each other.

This underlying dishonesty is corrosive, and prevents the kind of trust that is necessary for a close, high-performance relationship. Both sides need to be honest with each other about the fact that the employment might not be permanent.

Pink: The big idea in this book is the “tour of duty.” How did you come up with that concept?

Hoffman / Casnocha / Yeh: We realized the employment relationship was broken. The family model was no longer affordable, but the opposite approach of treating every employee like a free agent doesn’t build the high trust, collaborative relationships necessary for innovation.

Many Silicon Valley companies began using the Alliance and tour of duty frameworks as a way to manage the employer-employee relationship for the modern era. One of us (Reid) deployed it successfully when founding LinkedIn. In order to attract great people, he avoided vague talk about loyalty and instead made an explicit deal with employees: if they signed up for a tour of duty of between two to four years and made an important contribution to the business, Reid and the company would help advance their careers, preferably in the form of another tour of duty at LinkedIn, or at a different company if that's what was best for them.

This approach provided a crisp focus and a mutually agreeable time frame for discussing the employment relationship. It improved retention of great employees at LinkedIn. The paradox of the tour of duty idea is that acknowledging the fact that an employee can and might leave your company in the future improves your ability to construct a tour of duty that convinces him or her to stay.

Pink: How does a sense of purpose factor in to your analysis of talent and its place in modern organization?

Hoffman / Casnocha / Yeh: A sense of purpose matters hugely for employee engagement and effectiveness, but you don't get that through a single, company-wide mission statement. Most corporate mission statements are little loved and have little impact on the day to day task of recruiting and retaining great people.

Click here to read the full interview


“Recommended Reading: 10 Books on Creative Leadership” – Forbes

“… an insightful look at the new employer-employee relationship (especially for those of us on-boarding Gen Y and soon Millennials). — Ken Tencer, CEO of Spyder Works Inc., Globe and Mail

“This book will force you to see the future, it will show you new models of work, and it has the eminence and perspective to make your entire team think… an important new book which is well worth a read.” — Forbes

“an essential handbook for dealing with the challenges of managing an ever more connected, ever more mobile workforce.” — Barnes & Noble

“In a provocative new book, the father of social networks reveals a startling new way to reframe the relationship between employers and employees.” — Fortune magazine

“Readers will discover in this engaging book that the relationship between employee and employer doesn't have to be branded as ‘It's complicated.’" — TD magazine (Association for Talent Development)

“For those of you who haven’t read The Alliance, Reid, Casnocha and Yeh make a compelling case for a third model that treats employees as ‘allies.’” — Human Resource Executive

ADVANCE PRAISE for The Alliance:

Jeffrey R. Immelt, Chairman and CEO, General Electric—
“GE is competing in its third century. The key to sustained performance is developing competitive leaders in every era. The Alliance captures the essence of modern talent development: trust and mutual value creation helps both employer and employee compete in the marketplace. The authors lay out a framework that helps big companies as well as start-ups develop their people more effectively, while creating a competitive team.”

Kenneth I. Chenault, Chairman and CEO, American Express—
“Engaged employees are the key to success in any business. The Alliance is a terrific book that offers real-world insights on how to build loyalty, inspire creativity, and manage winning teams for the long term.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (July 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1625275773
  • ISBN-13: 978-1625275776
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Dodson on July 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Great book. Reid and crew (Casnocha and Yeh) have written an excellent "how to" on managing large organizations. People are no longer lifers at companies, like in the days of Bell Labs, and instead of pretending that's the ideal way for big companies to retain talent, the authors write about the realities of managing great people. A corporation is by definition a temporary alliance of numerous people (investors, employees, consultants), and it's refreshing to read a book that is based on that definition. One of the book's key mantras is that companies are teams, not families.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sunil on October 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read a blog post by Reid Hoffman with the introduction of the ideas in this book, and thought the post offered a really insightful way to think about career management in the coming years. So when it alluded to more detail in this book, I was looking forward to hearing more detail about it.

The ideas are expounded upon a bit more in this book, but I think they stayed too high level to be that much more valuable than the blog. The other issue I had was that I thought the writing plugged LinkedIn too much. 'LinkedIn' seems to appear on almost every other page, and this got really annoying about a third of the way through the book.

Though it is not very long, you may have a better experience not reading every word and just skimming through each chapter. Overall, more disappointed than not.
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Format: Hardcover
The Alliance is one of the most extraordinary books I've ever come across in my 28 years of experience as an executive search consultant and global expert on talent and leadership. It couldn't be more timely, and I have no doubt that it will have an extraordinary impact in the years to come. An absolute must for professionals and leaders.

The book is truly outstanding because it presents a war-tested method for helping individuals and organizations advance through a neat process of building effective transformational alliances between employer and employee, in clearly defined tours of duty.

The repetitive and successful experience of the authors practicing what they preach, as well as the many individual and organizational examples, make it at the same time credible, engaging, and practical.

The fact that their recommended practices have proven so successful in the Silicon Valley is particularly powerful, given the brutal competition for talent in this market. In addition, the Silicon Valley is an imperative place to watch as a vivid picture of what the rest of the world will look like in a few years when it comes to attracting, retaining, motivating and developing knowledge workers.

It is extremely well written, brief and to the point while still full of invaluable real examples. It is also as inspiring as practical, even including a very useful appendix with a model to use for defining a transformational tour of duty with an employee.

This book could not be more timely. From an employee perspective, the environment in which we are living demands constant learning, and properly crafted transformational alliances are one of the most effective ways to continue growing, changing, and learning.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Greg Nance on June 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I highly recommend the Alliance for any business leader looking to recruit and retain top talent. As the CEO of, I oversee a team of 160 and am continually challenged by retention and personnel development issues. The analysis on structuring "transformational tours of duty" is the best advice I've heard in 2014 and will immediately impact our performance reviews and promotion plans.

Read this book to supercharge your talent strategy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ivory Dorsey on September 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The tsunami of change presents two choices: Whine or Work! Having spent my entire adult life engaged and intrigued with the workplace, I find this book to be full of power and possibility when it comes to 'harnessing the power of skills, experience, & people productivity.' Like anything else, it will only work if you do. I have shared three of my favorite take-a-ways for your consideration:

(1)The Mind-set of employees, functional networking, & Corporate Alumni Networks
IT IS THE MIND-SET: A founder mind-set and a start-up mind-set doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to start your own company….An employee alliance is one that encourages entrepreneurial behavior. Having employees focused on the start-up of their career is a good thing; employees who don’t feel a pressing need to invest aggressively in their own careers probably won’t be capable of the quick, decisive actions that your company needs to adapt and grow. It is called “A founder mind-set.” They drive change, motivate people, and just get stuff done.” ~~”The Alliance”~Hoffman, Casnocha, & Yeh

(2)NETWORKING ON STEROIDS; INFLUENCING OTHERS TO ACT!---….If more companies studied corporate alumni networks, they would see that the cost of investing in alumni is much less than they might think, and the returns are much greater…Four Reasons to Invest in an Alumni Network… ”~~”The Alliance” pages 128-132

(3)This quote is just the tip of the iceberg:--“…There is a misconception that network strength equal your number of social media followers. Rather than fixating on raw numbers, consider if a person is connected to the right people and has the realistic ability to leverage those connections for useful information or to influence others to act….Knowledge is not valuable unless shared….
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