Reid Hoffman et al – The Alliance (#6 of 26)

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So yes, I ended up reading a management/professional self-help genre book after a very long time, primarily for reasons mentioned above 😀

The complete title of the book is The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age. The premise of the book and consequently its first few chapters are wonderful. Corporations across the world have been living a charade with their employees. Everyone knows there’s no job which comes with any guarantees, the ultimate aim of any organization is not to give you a comfy life but to make money for the promoter/shareholders. Yet we keep speaking about being a family at work, spouting warm sweet nothings to maintain a facade of great commitment to each other. What if we could avoid this and be honest and upfront. Where organizations and managers tell employees honestly when they don’t see a future and likewise employees also are open about any ambitions beyond the company.thealliance2

While this utopia makes sense, in reality its easier said than done. The authors give a bevy of reasons about why both sides should ‘honour the alliance’ – but honestly, I don’t see it working. From an organizations perspective – an employee, however valuable he or she may be – is always likely to be one of many. And while you’d like to do your best to retain and stay on good terms with everyone, it may not really be possible. The potential dent (to your employer brand, morale, performance) made by a single exit or unhappy employee is unlikely to be a large enough incentive to play fair with everyone. Especially when it is often impossible to play fair with everyone, the pie is limited and there will always be someone jiska katega. The balance of power or the leverage is too skewed.

For an employee, the reasons to trust the organization will honour ‘the alliance’ are similarly low. Who knows when the next recession and impending layoffs will hit, the leadership will change and a new generation of ass-kissers will get promoted, a merger happens leading to a restructuring throwing your closely honed plans off track – and when this happens who will play fair? Also in a world with the huge number of opportunities around, you’re unlikely to become ‘unemployable’ yourself because you ‘broke the alliance’.

Where this concept would probably prove useful is (a) with top management employees, who’re likely to care more about their reputation and have to be more choosy which organizations they join and (b) with employees who’re extreme superstars in their domains – who’re always going to be in demand, which is where the whole Silicon Valley best practice comes in.

The rest of the book is filled with suggestions on how to ‘align’ the organization and the employees goals, how to ‘understand’ each others motivations and so on.Which is again based on questions like who’re 3 people who have inspired you and list down 3 qualities of there’s, opening up about events that have influenced you in your life and general gyaan along these lines. And there’s a section on alumni networks which I found really good, both in concept and in feasibility – however it doesn’t seem to be a core thrust of the book.

So yes, the Alliance is a great concept but call me cynical – it’s going to take really nice people and a world with everything in plenty to actually make it work. A breezy read with food for thought however as someone said on Amazon – might have been better suited as a 10 page HBR article.

Entertainment Quotient : ★★
Education Quotient : ★★★
Readability : ★★★★

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