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February 27, 2018

Beyond The Phoenix Project: Modules 1, 2, 3 – Making The Book, Goldratt, & Deming

By Gene Kim

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, John Willis and I created nine hours of audio for Beyond The Phoenix Project, which is being released later this week. During the hundreds of hours of research and preparation, we explored many of the key pioneering researchers whose bodies of knowledge we draw upon so heavily in the DevOps movement.

In the next email, I’ll share some of the highlights from the modules on Lean, safety culture and resilience engineering. But today, our focus is the story of how The Phoenix Project came to be, how it was inspired by Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt’s lifetime of work, and how in turn, Dr. Goldratt was standing upon the shoulders of giants, most notably, Dr. W. Edwards Deming.

Module 1: The Book

In Module 1, we discuss the making of The Phoenix Project, its design goals, and how it was written as an homage to Dr. Goldratt’s famous book, The Goal. We talk about our favorite scenes from The Goal, its analogues in The Phoenix Project, and the rationale behind some of the concepts we introduced in that book (e.g,. Three Ways, the four types of work, etc.)

What I love about this section is that all our stories are placed within the timeline of all the amazing things that were happening in the early, heady days of the DevOps community: the famous 2009 “10 deploys per day” Velocity presentation from John Allspaw and Paul Hammond, the first 2010 U.S. DevOpsDays in Mountain View where John and I met, and all the way to the present day. (Click HERE for the ten-minute Module 1 excerpt.)

Module 2: Goldratt

In Module 2, we discuss how the bodies of knowledge around Dr. Goldratt’s other books and lifetime of research, including how George Spafford and I got trained in Theory of Constraints and constraints management. We also discuss many of Dr. Goldratt’s other tools, such as drum-buffer-rope, his logical thinking processes, and how we used current and future reality trees, and core, chronic conflicts to help construct The Phoenix Project.

Listening to this module again, I am so grateful to Dr. James Holt at Washington State University for all his teaching and coaching he gave George and me on Dr. Goldratt’s work — and how prophetic Dr. Goldratt’s predictions about how rules and policies must be changed when old constraints are diminished. Anyone in the DevOps community who struggles against powerful, legacy change approval processes and funding models will likely agree. (Click HERE for the ten-minute Module 2 excerpt.)

Module 3: Deming

In Module 3, we discuss the surprising life of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, who Dr. Goldratt talked about as one of the giants whose shoulders he stood upon. Like Dr. Goldratt, Dr. Deming was trained as a physicist — Deming was working on his Ph.D. In the mid-1920s, when physics was still being upended, as the deterministic Newtonian age was giving way to the strange, non-deterministic Einsteinian age of quantum dynamics, relativity, statistics and probability.

We talk about Dr. Deming’s amazing formative experiences and contributions, from his work at the famous Western Electric Hawthorne factory with Dr. Walter Shewhart (another physicist) in the 1930s, his work helping the U.S. industrial mobilization during World War II, how he helped the Japanese war-time recovery effort, and how the ascendancy of Japan leads to the U.S. manufacturing crisis in the 1980s. We also talk about his books, his famous Fourteen Points and his System of Profound Knowledge, which are just as relevant today than ever. (Click HERE for the fifteen-minute Module 3 excerpt.)

In the next email, I’ll describe Modules 4 and 5, about the Lean movement (which picks up where we left the story with Dr. Deming) and the safety culture movement (which brings in some familiar people in the DevOps movement).

Download all three excerpts here: The Phoenix Project, Goldratt, and Deming.

I hope you enjoy!


- About The Authors
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Gene Kim

Award winning CTO, researcher, and author.

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