The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford


The Phoenix Project is a novel telling the story of a protagonist having to save a cursed IT project from failure. The book is, I’m told, a retelling of Eliyahu M. Goldratt’s book The Goal but moved to the IT world.

The story itself is weak and the characterisations even weaker. By the end, most readers will probably have wished that the novel’s message had been presented as non-fiction. I had the same thought, but at the same time I do think there’s an argument to be made for how a story like this can convey a learning experience better than non-fiction. You get to see situation play out and understand the background for decisions taken. In the case of The Phoenix Project, however, it would be nice if the story was at all interesting.


Despite the criticism, one thing stuck with me, and I would guess most readers will have the same experience of a couple of the book’s points staying with you. For me, what I want to remember is how optimisation done anywhere but at the bottleneck of a process is an illusion, wasted effort if you will.

“Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt, who created the Theory of Constraints, showed us how any improvements made anywhere besides the bottleneck are an illusion. Astonishing but true. Any improvement made after the bottleneck is useless, because it will always remain starved, waiting for work from the bottleneck. And any improvements made before the bottleneck merely result in more inventory piling up at the bottleneck.”

The Phoenix Project, p. 90