As I mentioned in my review of The DevOps Handbook, a few of my colleagues and I have been reading The Phoenix Project as part of a bookclub. It’s a fun take on a technical topic—a didactic novel about transforming an IT organization to practice DevOps.
I won’t rehash too many of the main points here since they overlap so much with those of The DevOps Handbook. But I do want to point out how much many of the lessons dovetail with an older management book I finished recently, Peter F. Drucker’s The Effective Executive.
Drucker is a household name in the world of management and for good reason. He writes clearly and the practices he espouses are memorable. Simply being in charge of managing others or having the word “manager” in your title does not make you an executive, at least not an effective one. Instead, it is someone who takes ownership of results and focuses on the unique contribution they can make to the team regardless of seniority. You don’t have to manage people to think like an effective executive.
His practices of effective executives remind me of “The Three Ways” discussed in the two DevOps books. Effective leaders know where their time goes, focus on outward contributions, build on strengths, concentrate on the few areas that produce the biggest gains, and make decisions using a systematic process.
Teams that practice DevOps do the same thing. They try to improve flow by looking at their value stream map to see where work tends to idle. They make individuals knowledgeable about and responsible for development, security, and operations, rather than dividing these competencies into separate roles. Teams practicing DevOps hone in on the critical, limiting factors in their workflows. By focusing on these few constraints, they deliver more than they could by trying to improve everything at once. Both effective executives and teams work on collecting feedback and implementing processes to learn from that feedback.
I can understand why Drucker’s writing is so popular. It has stood the test of time well. Although The Phoenix Project is not the Great American Novel, its format is particularly engaging for a technical book. Kudos to the writers for bringing DevOps to life.