The Goal and The Phoenix Project


I’m reviewing these two books together, since the Phoenix Project builds largely on The Goal by applying the Theory of Constraints to the IT environment.

The Goal┬áby Eliyahu M. Goldratt is familiar to anyone who has studied management. It tells a fictional story, following a protagonist struggling with production problems at a manufacturing plant. By following the protagonist’s journey in understanding the problem definition, the mechanisms in action, and how to improve the situation the reader gains the same information, is guided through the logic and thought process, and the theory is applied to (fictional) practice. It’s not the most riveting piece of fiction ever written, and Goldratt spends too much time showing just how bad the problem is and the protagonist’s frustration before moving onto the enlightenment steps. That said, it’s certainly a much more pleasant and effective way to convey the concepts Goldratt wants to share than a traditional theory book would be; much like a a textbook it does require the reader to put it down here and there and think through what just happened and was suggested.

The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford follows the same method, but is objectively a much better book. It starts off with a dysfunctional IT organization within a company. Here it shines by painting a picture of archetypal IT staffers and situations with such skill that anyone who ever has worked in IT may be tempted to replace the characters with names from their own organization. The pain-points are also all too familiar. It moves along at a much faster pace while still succeeding in conveying the principles and theory it sets out to communicate.

The Phoenix Project in particular should be required reading for anyone in IT operations or development to get a better idea of organizations as a whole, especially management. Regardless, helping the reader understand how to be more efficient, and how to spot inefficiencies around them, it is helpful no matter the level of an employee. It additionally serves as a great source of references for more reading, such as Personal Kanban, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and The Goal to name a few.

The Phoenix Project I highly recommend; if you want to get into more nitty-gritty about the Theory of Constraints in still a very accessible work, The Goal is a good follow-up.