The Phoenix Project is a perfect book to learn about work processes.

By John King, Business Development Manager at Umbrella Managed Systems

John KingLearning is a requirement to evolve within the marketplace. Our education doesn’t stop after we graduate. Mark Twain said, “Don’t let schooling get in the way of your education.” With that in mind, I want to learn and evolve in the business place throughout my career. The Phoenix Project is a perfect book to learn about work processes. (The link goes to if you are interested in picking it up.)

The Phoenix Project is a book that’s been floating around the office for a while now. The book has been highly recommended to our entire team. At first, I thought it might be dry and boring. (It’s a book about IT operations and comes with a resource guide after all.) Not exactly Jack Kerouac. But I really enjoyed reading it.  There’s a compelling story written in the Three Act manner; it reads like a novel.

IT is a competency, not a department

The story unfolds as a reluctant hero takes the stage in the form of Bill Palmer, the newly promoted VP of IT Operations for a publicly traded auto parts company. As we follow Bill and his team through putting out the multiple IT fires and issues that can affect a multi-billion dollar company, we learn more and more about how IT is not a department, but rather a competency. Not dissimilar to the idea that math is a competency not a department. Some are better at math and those are your accountants and some are better at computers and those are your IT professionals.

IT is an important competency for ALL businesses.

The book meanders and gets technical in areas that could be cut, but overall there are some great ways to think about work and processes to increase productivity. The main theme was centered around making all work, no matter the industry or discipline, to be productive and flow through the machine (the business).

The most expensive work in any business is unplanned work.

The Phoenix ProjectThe author uses the metaphor for IT work as a manufacturing plant. As a physical part moves down the assembly line, it’s always moving forward. If the part moves backward, or an unplanned stoppage happens, then efficiencies go down as well as the profit margin.

IT is not a manufacturing process at first glance, but it most certainly is a process based activity that cannot move backward. No different than any other discipline of work. Forward= good, Backwards= bad. You would hate for your attorney to rework his response to a legal matter, or your accountant to refile your taxes because of a rounding error. IT is no different. You do NOT want you IT company to reboot a server in the middle of the day.

I am not going to ruin the ending, but it does have some great takeaways. This book was designed for the IT and development sector, but the lessons inside are applicable to many disciplines. I’m the sales and marketing guy, and I’m able to apply the teachings to the sales and marketing process. You won’t find me turning a wrench on a server, but I’m turning a wrench on our sales process.

Let me know if you’ve read The Phoenix Project, and if you have, let me know what you think!

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