The Unicorn Project

Today the book “The Unicorn Project” by Gene Kim is released! Since I had written a review about his previous book “The Phoenix Project”, I was kindly given the opportunity to read a beta copy to be able to provide you with a review. Here it is!

The Unicorn Project

Content

In this new book Gene Kim re-visits the successful novel format from “The Phoenix Project”. Once again we are back at the company Parts Unlimited, and the main character of the story is Maxine Chambers, a Lead Developer and Architect.

Throughout the story, The Five Ideals are explained to the reader, with a lot of good examples. 

The Five Ideals are:

  1. Locality and Simplicity
  2. Focus, Flow, and Joy
  3. Improvement of Daily Work
  4. Psychological Safety
  5. Customer Focus

Back to the story, what happens during the 19 chapters this book consist of? First there is a major payroll outage, and the management needs to find a scapegoat, guess who? Maxine is punished by being reassigned to the Phoenix Project, which feels like a prison. Heck, Building 5 at corporate campus where they sit, even looks like a prison.

To start, Maxine wants to get a Phoenix build running on her laptop. But this seemingly easy task is nearly impossible, to get through endless layers of bureaucracy. Hope is almost lost when she meets Kurt Reznick (a QA Manager at Parts Unlimited) and joins the Rebellion (a group of likeminded people that wants to work in a different way, by living the The Five Ideals).  

They start off in small scale, overcoming some setbacks during the way, and in the end they manage to turn the company successful again! Read the book to find out how they did it.

Takeaways

My main takeaways from reading this book are: 

  • The Five Ideals are a nice addition to the “Agile arsenal”. Especially Psychological Safety, that I see as a cornerstone for innovation.
  • There is a lot of talk about unicorns (“A unicorn is a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion”). This book shows that an old large company also can, and inevitable must, be like a unicorn to survive. 
  • A story based on good vs. evil never goes out of fashion. This particular one is also packed with references to things like Star Wars and Game of Thrones 🙂

Recommendation

Gene Kim have a very good sense for knowing what is going on, and to see the trends, in the IT business. That compared with his writing skills, creating a very interesting story, makes this book a solid recommendation! You have not read “The Phoenix Project”, and think it’s needed? No worries, “The Unicorn Project” can be read as a standalone book.

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

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