The Phoenix Project

I just finished reading “The Phoenix Project” book by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford. Must say it’s probably the best IT novel I have ever read!

It’s a definite must read for all IT folks working either in development, operations, architecture or security.

I worked for a company that is from the organizational perspective very much like Parts Unlimited (the company mentioned in the book), I could relate and identify with the characters and situations in the book. I could even replace names of the characters in the book with the real names of my colleagues. Unfortunately the politics in the Parts Unlimited is nothing compared to the one I worked for. I was excited and happy to see how different teams in the book managed to work together to go from chaos to a real DevOps culture. Knowing that it is possible and it can be done, I felt for my previous company and good people still working there. They are buried deep in the political trenches. Life could be so much more easier and interesting if only all of them, and their managers, would read this amazing book and put it in practice.

I really liked some of the comments made in the book and would like to share some of them with you. I am sure you will related to these few sentences as you have probably experienced them already. A few snippets from this brilliant book:

“For the last decade, like clockwork, new CIOs would come and go every two years. They stay just long enough to understand the acronyms, learn where the bathrooms are, implement a bunch of programs and initiatives to upset the apple cart, and then they are gone. CIO stands for – Career Is Over.”

“Information Security is always flashing their badges at people making urgent demands, regardless of the consequences to the rest of the organization, which is why we don’t invite them to many meetings. The best way to make sure something doesn’t get done is to have them in the room.”

“Does anyone know what’s required from the IT operations to support this launch?”

“No one has a clue”, he says, shaking his head in disgust. “We haven’t even agreed on how to do the handoff with Development. In the past, they’ve just pointed to a network folder and said, ‘Deploy that’. There are newborn babies dropped off at a church doorstep with more operating instructions than what they’re giving us.”

He pauses and then says emphatically, “Eliyahu M. Goldratt, who created the Theory of Constraints, showed us how any improvements made anywhere besides he bottleneck are an illusion. Astonishing, but true! Any improvement made after the bottleneck is useless, because it will always remain starved, waiting for work form the bottleneck. And any improvements made before the bottleneck merely results in more inventory pilling up at the bottleneck.”

“Once you figure this out, young Bill, you will be well on your way toward understanding the Three Ways”, he says. “The First Way helps us understand how to create fast flow of work as it moves from Development into IT Operations, because that’s what’s between the business and the customer. The Second Way shows us how to shorten and amplify feedback loops, so we can fix quality at the source and avoid rework. And the Third Way shows us how to create a culture that simultaneously fosters experimentation, learning from failure, and understanding that repetition and practice are the prerequisites to mastery.”

“There are two things I’ve learned in the last month. One is that IT matters. IT is not just a department that I can delegate away. IT is smack in the middle of every major company effort we have and is critical to almost every aspect of daily operations. The second thing is that people think that just because IT doesn’t use motor oil and carry physical packages that it doesn’t need preventive maintenance. That somehow, because the work and the cargo that IT carries are invisible, you just need to sprinkle more magic dust on the computers to get them running again.”

“Come on! I am not the smartest guy in the room by any stretch. But, if we are so important, why are they trying to outsource all of us? Face it, we’ve been moved from one foster home to another for decades.”

“While we are dreaming big dreams here, let me say this,” he continues, “In the years, I’m certain every COO worth their salt will have come from IT. Any COO who doesn’t intimately understand the IT systems that actually run the business is just an empty suit, relying on someone else to do their job.”

I highly recommend this book to all in any large organization, but it should be mandatory reading for IT executives.


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