The Phoenix Project follows Bill (MC), which becomes the VP of IT overnight, in his adventures with making sure the Phoenix Project gets developed and deployed - a project critical for the company’s survival. He’s not alone, though; he receives help and mentoring from a mysterious and eccentric board candidate Eric.

The book talks about many things I’ve never thought about, such as organization as a whole, team and cross-team productivity, company processes, requirements, promises, duties, and all that sort of thing.1 However, this is not one of those project managing books. It tells a story of how IT is the core of the business, and most importantly, IT companies can (and maybe should? 🤔) be managed as manufacturing plants.

The book mentions various methodologies: Theory of constraints, ITIL, plan-do-check-act, TQM, coso cube, and something called The Three Ways. I’ve literally never heard about any of these and I may would’ve thought they were all nonsense if I haven’t been introduced to them through simulated practice in this very book. For instance, I learned there seem to be 4 types of work in IT and that really clicked for me.


The book is written in a form of a novel, which is not something I’m used to reading. But, I would argue this type is actually more impactful than a dry textbook of “You should do stuff this way” because there is a lot of emotional involvement. The situation is at first very bad, but all the concepts (and new problems) are introduced organically. It reminds me a bit of Discourses of Epictetus which arrives at various conclusions entirely through dialogues.

Also, I just love how Sarah was written as a universally hateful character. 😅

Who this book is for?

This book is for both engineers and managers in IT organizations that want to know how those organizations work and how can they perform efficiently, react to the market faster, and stop burning people out.

Why this book?

My boss recommended it to me, he has read it “at least twice” (direct quote). I’m sure he loves it, and I enjoyed discovering new things and topics I never knew existed, but I’m not entirely sure whether or not this book applies to me directly. I mean, it probably does, but I’m too young and inexperienced ATM to recognize in exactly what forms and ways. 🤷

I guess I found myself more in the role of Brent, the main Individual Contributor of the book, than any other character. That knowledge in itself is pretty important, I guess. I don’t think I could ever perform as well in the tasks the book describes, but I am glad that I am now aware of them.

  1. I’m an engineer which had literally 0 exposure to those topics in an entire life, in part by the upbrigning and in part by my education choices. Still, I didn’t mind the change of scenery.