The Alliance

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  • Think of employment as an Alliance: a mutually beneficial deal, with explicit terms, between independent players. Employees invest in the company’s success; the company invests in the employees’ market value.
  • The phrase “tour of duty” comes from the military, where it refers to a single specific assignment or deployment. Soldiers will typically serve multiple tours of duty during their military careers, much as employees will take on a number of different projects or initiatives during the course of their work at a particular company and throughout their careers.
  • Three types of tours of duty: Rotational, Transformational, Foundational.
  • The first flavour of Rotational is a structured program, of finite duration, usually aimed at entry-level employees. For example, investment banks and management consultancies have defined 2 to 4-year analyst programs. These programs are often explicit “on-ramps” to transition new employees from school to work, or from their previous employers to the new employer’s unique work environment. The purpose of this type of Rotational tour is to allow both parties to assess the potential long-term fit between employer and employee.
  • A Transformational tour is personalized. The focus is less on a fixed time period and more on the completion of a specific mission. It’s negotiated one-on-one by you and your employee.
  • A general rule of thumb is that an initial Transformational tour lasts 2-5 years. It’s a time period that seems to be nearly universal for any organisation or industry. In the software business, the 2-5 years term fits with a normal product development cycle, allowing an employee to see a major project through. Also, Silicon Valley stock options grants typically vest over 4 years.
  • As Brad Smith said: “Year 1 lets you gain the important context for the role, year 2 is about putting your definitive mark on transformational change, and years 3-5 are about implementing and growing your successes- or pivoting when assumptions don’t play out the way you expect.
  • If an employee sees working at the company as his last job, and the company wants the employee to stay until he retires, he is on a Foundational tour of duty. The employee sees his life’s work as the company’s mission and vice versa. People on this tour, provide a company with continuity and institutional memory. Employees who transition from Transformational to Foundational develop a sense of psychological ownership of the long-term company mission.
  • Rotational tours provide scalability (the standardized nature of these tours makes them easier to implement and recruit for, especially at scale). Transformational tours provide adaptability by helping companies bring in the specific skills and experiences required. Foundational tours provide continuity by helping companies retain employees who focus on the long term.
  • Building alignment between employee and employer; 3 steps:
  • 1. Establish and disseminate the company’s core mission and values
  • 2. Learn each individual employee’s core aspirations and values. (Ask the employee to jot down the names of three people he admires, then next to each name, the employee should list the 3 qualities he most admires about each person, then rank these qualities in the order of importance.
  • 3. Work together to align employee, manager and company
  • “Who’s the best coworker you ever worked with? and “What is your proudest career moment” help build trust and opening up.
  • Implementing tours of duty:
  • 1. Start the conversation and define the mission (what’s the overall objective of the tour? what do the results of a successful tour look like for the company and employee?
  • 2. Set up a system of regular checkpoints for both sides to exchange feedback with each other;
  • 3. Before the end of the tour, begin defining the next tour of duty.
  • 4. Define together a new tour of duty within/outside the company;
  • If you carefully manage leading indicators, such as mission alignment, an employee’s ability to gather network intelligence, or general satisfaction during tours of duty check-ins, you’ll successfully manage lagging indicators such as employee retention or engagement.
  • The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competition, the best way is to do an outstanding job with information; how you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose.
  • Network intelligence: has the function of providing access to hidden data, knowledge that isn’t publicly available. Most of the valuable info is not public, but also not secret either.
  • Implementing network Intelligence programs:
    • “Who are the key people that you would consider hiring after you?
    • Who was the most interesting person you talked to this week?
    • Employees can expense their lunches with smart people in the industry, as long as they summarize what they learned from the lunch on their expense report.
  • Ask every employee to furnish a list of the smartest people he knows who do not work at the company (identify experts who could be brought in as speakers);
  • Corporate Alumni Networks: McKinsey & Co, has operated an official program since the 1960s, which has grown to over twenty-four thousand members. Bain&Co employs nine full-time people to spearhead corporate alumni initiatives. They help place alumni into executive roles with Bain clients and other companies and provides general career counselling services.
  • 4 reasons to invest in an Alumni Network:
    • The alumni network helps you hire great people; Boomerang employees return for another tour of duty. Boomerangs are valuable because they offer an outsiders perspective combined with an insider’s knowledge of company process and culture.
    • alumni provide useful intelligence; competitive info, effective business practices, emerging industry trends etc. Simply conduct regular polls of alumni using standard questions can unearth key nuggets of info, such as how the company is preceived as an employer, competitive intelligence and industry trends, and pointers to potential customers.
    • alumni refer to customers;
    • alumni are brand ambassadors; they also have the advantage of being third parties, and thus are perceived as more objective.
  • Implementing an Alumni Network:
    • 1. Decide who you wanto to include in your alumni network
    • 2. Explicitly define the expectations and benefits of the relationship (referral bonuses, product discounts/whitelist access, hosted events, official recognition for select alumni)
    • 3. Establish a comprehensive exit process
    • 4. Build links between current employees and Alumni;