Though Tichy's place among the author-stars of the business and leadership genres is well-established by now, this lengthy volume does little to shed new light on a topic that is badly in need of refreshment. In an attempt to delve deeply into the leadership development practices of well-known firms so that the rest of us can find our ways, what really happens is that we all end up more convinced than ever that General Electric is a successful company. This is great for GE employees and shareholders, but not necessarily news.
The problem, of course, is that we don't all work for GE, Dell or Sony. We work for a small bank in Omaha, a hospital in Memphis, or a property management firm in Boise. What works at GE might not work in Boise, unless the CEO has read Tichy's books. By and large she hasn't.
Ah, but there is some marvelous material here, if you have the patience to wade through it, particularly in stories about small, local organizations such as Focus: HOPE, a civil rights organization in Detroit and a shining example of what Tichy calls virtuous teaching cycles (VTC). A VTC is an interactive process that "winning" organizations all promote, in which people learn from each other in ways that generate more teaching, more learning and new knowledge in a self-perpetuating manner. It's kind of like the wave at a college football game—you can't stop it even if you don't participate.
What you should really pay attention to, however, for it is the hidden secret of the book, is the Cycle of Leadership Handbook, a field guide to building and leading teaching organizations. It is co-authored by Tichy and Chris DeRose and takes up about 100 pages in the back of the book. Forget the first part and go directly here. There are lots of visual aids, sample surveys and other self-assessment tools for the practice of management, including a teaching organization audit that should be on every CEO's desk.