The Phoenix Project

Update: Now the “squel” to this book is out, it’s called “The Unicorn Project” and you find my review here.

A friend of mine, who also happens to be an agileist, suggested that I should read the book ”The Phoenix Project”.  It’s written by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford and was originally released in 2013. On the cover the following is stated: ”A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win”. A novel? Yes, a novel so you can say that the format is different than most of the other agile books out there. I like this format, the story is interesting, and it is easy to keep on reading chapter after chapter.



The book has 35 chapters separated in three parts, but I guess you all wonder what the novel is all about? The story starts in part one when Bill Palmer gets promoted and become VP IT Operations at the company Parts Unlimited. The company was really struggling and a gigantic project named Phoenix was launched in order to save Parts Unlimited. When Phoenix was put into production, it all failed and was deemed a huge disaster. This went hand in hand with other catastrophes within the IT operations (for example no salaries from the payment system and so on).

In part two Bill gets in contact with a lean ”guru” whose name was Erik. He arranged for Bill to visit a manufacturing company to study lean. Erik starts to act as a mentor to Bill, and with this help he manages to bring some order into IT Operations to start a turnaround. In the final part a new project Unicorn is launched, it is all the good parts from Phoenix but done in an agile way. Now things really get going and using DevOps the development- and operations-departments are working together to achieve success! The goal they are striving for is to deploy to production ten times a day!


First of all, I take with me that change must come from some sort of failure or crisis. Without pain there is nothing to gain, and status quo will prevail. Second it’s the concept of a work center that is made up of four things:

  • The machine
  • The man
  • The method
  • The measures

A deployment pipeline is the entire value stream from code check-in to production. Everything needs to be version controlled. The term DevOps is referred to as the outcome of applying Lean principles to the IT value stream.

The Three ways describes the underpinning principles of DevOps:

  • The first way is about the left-to-right flow of work from Development to IT Operations to the customer.
  • The second way is about the constant flow of fast feedback from right-to-left at all stages of the value stream.
  • The third way is about creating a culture that fosters two things: continual experimentation and understanding that repetition and practice is the prerequisite to mastery.

Finally the four types of work that IT does:

  • Business projects
  • Internal IT projects
  • Changes
  • Unplanned work or recovery work


A novel and the story presented in this book is a very pleasant and nice way to to learn new things. If you want to now more about DevOps I can really recommend this book!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

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