The Phoenix Project

I just finished reading The Phoenix Project (by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford, Jan 10, 2013).  I found it to be a pretty cool way of conveying organizational development concepts for an IT organization.  The year long efforts to turn around a failing IT department for a large company (Parts Unlimited) was presented as a novel.

I was sure, as I neared the end, that there would be a chapter (or appendix) at the end where the authors would share a clear list of the concepts/theories presented within the book.  Specifically the Three Ways.  I was surprised to find no such item.  So I thought I’d find a reference to a website, or another book, or something that would tell me how to implement the specifics…or at least explain them.  Again no such thing.

It remained a compelling novel.  I actually got to like the characters.  I cheered for the protagonist and booed the antagonist.  My only (negative) criticisms are that the characters could have been developed a little more – I accepted the less than thorough development because I thought it wasn’t going to be a “novel.”  Also the demise of the antagonist was anti-climatic.  But I was happy with the book overall and it definitely got me thinking.

There were some basic steps any department or unit could take to improve.  One of these was making improving internal processes a top priority!  I’ve seen this in action and totally agree…especially automation.  Here are some points:

There are 4 types (categories) of work

  • Business projects
  • Internal projects
  • Changes
  • Unplanned work

Workcenters are made up of:

  • Machine
  • Methods
  • Man
  • Measures

And I found a nice set of quotes to tweet!  Like, “learning to say ‘no’ is just the tip of the iceberg.”

There’s a lot to learn, and even more to try.  What did you think of the book?

3 thoughts on “The Phoenix Project

  1. The book was meant to be a bit of the Socratic method wrapped in a novel to get folks talking to one another and come up with methods that work in their organization. We intentionally had the guidance at a high-level.

    First, I’d recommend that you check out Gene’s blog at:

    Gene is talking all the time and keynotes are on Yahoo and Vimeo.

    Gene and a team of DevOps luminaries are working on a DevOps cookbook.

    If you’d like to talk sometime, your Gartner seatholder can set up a call.

    • Well it worked (“…to get folks talking…”). And I wasn’t knocking the novel approach you took, I was just surprised. I hadn’t seen it done that way before. I liked it very much. I joined Gene’s newsletter already.

      There was so much in it that I find that the talking people are doing may be on different topics, levels. Personally I’m stoked over the validation that automating what I do (my processes) should be one of my top priorities.

  2. There are so many good nuggets in this book. Relentless focus on constraints and continuous improvement is 100% consistent with the University’s culture of continuous improvement.