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The Pheonix Project is an IT Fable
on 12 April 2017
The Pheonix Project is an IT Management Fable, the characters are for the most part extreme representations of concepts and people you interact with in business. The scenarios though are all too realistic, failing companies due to poor ability to respond to the voice of the customer, overrunning major projects with no end in sight, heroics all around, a failure to understand the voice of the business with security demands, audit requirements and processes that add hours, days and months to lead times, despair and frustration from all quarters and open hostility not just between IT and the rest of the business but an IT civil war too. Yes Bill is almost magical at seeing the problems, Steve changes from antagonist to mentor too easily, I've never seen a change manager as willing to adapt as Patty, so on and so forth, but a story bogged down in meetings wouldn't be of much interest. Oh and Eric. You'll never work with Eric, if you do, follow him everywhere.
With these realistic problems that no doubt face most of us the Pheonix Project lays out a number of tools and approaches that will lead the reader to think "damn, that's a good idea" or "that's an amazing way of looking at it". There's a moment in the book (I got it on kindle first, but now I have a physical copy that's getting the highlighter treatment) where one of the executives more or less goes "well dur well done you've figured it out" to which another goes, "well why didn't you think to explain this to everyone?" we often assume that the obvious is obvious to everyone, it's like a person watching poker on TV who can see everyone's cards going "well that outcome was obvious" clearly it wasn't to the people playing who couldn't see the cards.
All in all this book should be a must-read for everyone in IT or work with IT, it sets out the groundwork for implementing lean principles in IT and I wish I'd read it years ago. To be honest I think anyone with aspirations to help improve workflow through an organisation should read this, and the Goal and then sit down and think about the lessons presented within.