The Phoenix Project

Just wanted to take a second during my lunch break to let you know about a book called “The Phoenix Project”. Back in ancient times, the 1980’s, a man named  named Eli Goldratt wrote a book entitled “The Goal”. It was about applying a concept called “Theory of Constraints” to the manufacturing process. But this wasn’t a boring textbook, but instead written as a novel. At the time a new concept, in the time since it was published the Theory of Constraints has become integrated into almost every manufacturing operation around the world.

“The Phoenix Project” takes the concepts of The Goal and updates them with new management techniques like Agile and Kanban, then applies them to the crazy world of IT. And just like in The Goal, The Phoenix Project uses the form of a novel to tell the story.

Bill is a newly minted VP of IT for Parts Unlimited. Bill inherits a mess, a project pivotal to the success of the company dubbed The Phoenix Project is over two years late and out of control. Not only that, operations in general is in a shambles. Bill is given just a few months to fix it, or the entire IT division will be outsourced.

Paralleling the goal, a mysterious figure steps in to mentor Bill. Using the Socratic method, he guides Bill in the application of Theory of Constraints, Agile, Kanban, and other techniques to the world of IT. Along the way Bill shifts the organization from a silo model of Dev, Operations, and Projects to the unified model known as DevOps.

So why am I delaying my lunch break (my lovely wife makes a killer cube steak) to blog about this? Well until Midnight, Wednesday April 3rd you can get the book for FREE in Kindle format from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Phoenix-Project-Business-ebook/dp/B00AZRBLHO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1364912906&sr=1-1&keywords=the+phoenix+project

I had actually paid good money and loved the book so much I’d already started this review post, now that it’s free I’m happy to share with all of you. It’s not a long book, I read most of it on a Friday evening and finished it up on a Saturday. Since finishing it I’ve begun applying some of the concepts to my personal and professional life with good results. If you happen to run across this post after April 3rd I still recommend getting it, even if you have to pay for it like I did. It is well worth your time and money.

Don’t have a Kindle? No problem, there is free Kindle software for all the tablets; iPad, Android and yes even Surface. No device? There’s also a Kindle app for your PC and Mac. If all else fails, there’s even a cloud reader so you can read your books on any web browser.

If you want to know more about DevOps, the authors (Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford) run a website called IT Revolution at http://itrevolution.com/ where you can find out more.

This is a great book that should be required reading for everyone in IT. I believe it will have as big an impact to IT as The Goal did to manufacturing. And if you haven’t read The Goal, get it as well, perhaps even read it first. The Phoenix Project makes several references to The Goal, which will make more sense if you read The Goal first. (The Goal is also available as an audio book from Audible, I’m hoping the Phoenix Project will be converted to audio soon.)

Enjoy, now if you’ll excuse me I have a cube steak with my name on it.

Big Thinkers – Andy Warren

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I’m devoting this week to “Big Thinkers”. I want to highlight individuals who challenge my thought processes and cause me to think about my profession, my methodologies, and force me to reflect on my skills. Some of these individuals I have the privilege of knowing personally, others I have only known via Podcasts or Twitter. I’m hoping that by highlighting these Big Thinkers you too will be challenged to grow and evolve in your craft. Last week was focused on individuals in the development community, this week will focus on the SQL Server realm.

Rather than “Big Thinker”, I think the label “Big Do-er” may be more accurate when it comes to today’s selection. Andy Warren maintains a blog at SQL Server Central (and was also one of its founders), and runs End to End Training out of Orlando FL. He also had a vision for training videos that were short in duration (roughly five minutes) and very focused on a single subject, hence he created JumpstartTV.

His biggest contribution to the community perhaps centers around SQL Saturday. Andy saw the success around code camps, events where developers could congregate on a Saturday and take free community based training. At the same time he recognized some of the difficulties around them. They tended to be hard to find, without a standard look and feel to their websites. There was also a hurdle for people wanting to put on a code camp for the first time. Andy decided to act.

He created SQL Saturday.com, a centralized website where anyone wishing to put on a SQL Saturday could advertise their event, handle registrations, schedules, and speakers. He created a guide for event planners, to give them a checklist for their event. Speaking from personal experience, I know we followed the guide closely and found it very valuable when our group held SQL Saturday 7 recently. Finally Andy throws himself into the event as well, appearing personally at as many SQL Saturdays as humanly possible.

Truly Andy is the shining example of “one man can make a difference” and I can but hope my own contributions will come anywhere close to Andy’s.

Big Thinkers – Brent Ozar

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I’m devoting this week to “Big Thinkers”. I want to highlight individuals who challenge my thought processes and cause me to think about my profession, my methodologies, and force me to reflect on my skills. Some of these individuals I have the privilege of knowing personally, others I have only known via Podcasts or Twitter. I’m hoping that by highlighting these Big Thinkers you too will be challenged to grow and evolve in your craft. Last week was focused on individuals in the development community, this week will focus on the SQL Server realm.

Brent Ozar is an active blogger and Twitterer, in addition to being Editor-in-chief at SQL Serverpedia. The site hosts many video tutorials, many of which are created by Brent. I very much like his style, it is relaxed, easy going, but informative and right to the point. I find it very easy to learn from these videos, thus enhancing my skills greatly. I find Brent to be a good role model for my public speaking, and I think you will too.

Big Thinkers – Pinal Dave

image I’m devoting this week to “Big Thinkers”. I want to highlight individuals who challenge my thought processes and cause me to think about my profession, my methodologies, and force me to reflect on my skills. Some of these individuals I have the privilege of knowing personally, others I have only known via Podcasts or Twitter. I’m hoping that by highlighting these Big Thinkers you too will be challenged to grow and evolve in your craft. Last week was focused on individuals in the development community, this week will focus on the SQL Server realm. “

Pinal Dave reminds me of that chef who goes “bang” all the time. I first got to know him when I was working on a SQL Server project and doing some things that were new to me. I’d do a web search and “bang”, there came the answer on his blog. Another search and “bang” there was his blog in the top 10 results again. Over and over that day I’d search and “bang” there would be the answer, right on his blog in an easy to read and understand format.

Pinal has to be one of the most prolific writers I’ve seen, his blog SQL Authority is filled with informative, easy to understand articles. I also had the privilege of meeting him at the MVP summit earlier this year, and he has got to be the nicest guy in SQL Server you’ll ever meet. He is also a frequent poster on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pinaldave. To me he is the embodiment of helpful service, and reminds me to remain humble as I work in the SQL community.

Go ahead, give his blog a try. By the end of the day you too may be thinking “Hey, who needs Books on Line when you have Pinal Dave?”

Big Thinkers – Kimberly Tripp and Paul Randal

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I’m devoting this week to “Big Thinkers”. I want to highlight individuals who challenge my thought processes and cause me to think about my profession, my methodologies, and force me to reflect on my skills. Some of these individuals I have the privilege of knowing personally, others I have only known via Podcasts or Twitter. I’m hoping that by highlighting these Big Thinkers you too will be challenged to grow and evolve in your craft. Last week was focused on individuals in the development community, this week will focus on the SQL Server realm.

Today’s pick is actually a two for one special. Perhaps not fair since individually either of them is outstanding in the SQL Server field and have appeared on more podcasts and events than I can count, but since they got married they have become an unstoppable, inseparable duo. I speak of course of Paul Randal and Kimberly Tripp. While most couples argue over paint color, they argue over indexing strategies. As I said they’ve been on more podcasts than I can count, some of my favorites though were Dot Net Rocks Episodes 178, 110, 74, 217, plus RunAsRadio shows 104, 76, 74, 72, and my favorite Episode 36. In addition to podcasts I’ve seen them present live at TechEd.

I like Paul and Kim because they make SQL Server fun. Yes, I said fun. During one of their presentations I feel like a kid being shown a toy catalog a page at a time. When its over I can’t wait to get my hands on the geeky SQL Server toys I’ve just been shown. Take a listen, I believe you’ll find their fun infectious and will soon be ‘playing’ with a new toy called SQL Server.

(And just for the record, I don’t care what Carl Franklin says, Kimberly is the cuter one of the two. )

Big Thinkers – Steve Jones

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I’m devoting this week to “Big Thinkers”. I want to highlight individuals who challenge my thought processes and cause me to think about my profession, my methodologies, and force me to reflect on my skills. Some of these individuals I have the privilege of knowing personally, others I have only known via Podcasts or Twitter. I’m hoping that by highlighting these Big Thinkers you too will be challenged to grow and evolve in your craft. Last week was focused on individuals in the development community, this week will focus on the SQL Server realm.

Steve began working with SQL Server way back in 1991. One of his earliest DBA jobs was on SQL Server version 4.2 running on OS/2 v1.3. To say Steve is prolific is an understatement; he seems to be all over the web. He does a regular column at SQL Server Central, which he cofounded. Steve also does a regular video podcast called “The Voice of the DBA”. Finally he is very active on Twitter, engaging others in regular conversation.

I think that is what I like most about Steve. His style is very conversational, when ever I read his editorials or watch his video podcasts I always feel like I’m right there with him, having a discussion. A frequent closing line to his videocast is “tell me what you think”. Thinking is what Steve inspires, after he throws out a topic I invariably wind up pondering it for a while. I’ve met Steve, and he is just like what you see in the videos, I never walk away from him without having something fun to mull over in the old gray matter. Check out Steve and see if your brain isn’t buzzing afterward.

Big Thinkers – Mark Miller

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I’m devoting this week to “Big Thinkers”. I want to highlight individuals who challenge my thought processes and cause me to think about my profession, my methodologies, and force me to reflect on my skills. Some of these individuals I have the privilege of knowing personally, others I have only known via Podcasts or Twitter. I’m hoping that by highlighting these Big Thinkers you too will be challenged to grow and evolve in your craft.

Mark Miller is an insane genius. I can think of no other way to describe his quirky sense of humor, unbridled energy, and extreme coding ability. What he does for me though is make me think deeply about user interfaces, and how they can make or break my application. Not just in vague ways either, Mark can demonstrate in concrete terms what makes a good UI. How many pixels does the mouse have to travel in order to let the user accomplish the task? Are the colors used of a similar hue and shade? How can I use contrast most effectively in my user interface?

Of course in some ways the education I’ve received is a classic double edge sword. Now when I sit down with a new app I began analyzing it in terms of what I know, and immediately thinking of how it could be better. Some might call that hubris, I prefer to think of it as critical thinking based on good UI design methodologies preached by the “Millenator”.

Mark has appeared on Dot Net Rocks numerous times, including Episodes 80, 101, 134, 153, 185, 338, and 395. He has also done a ‘boat load’ of DNR TV episodes, including Episodes 5, 40, 44, 72, and 107. His best work though, can be seen in the two part DNR TV series on “The Science of a Great User Experience”, Episodes 112 and 123. In these episodes Mark actually demonstrates good UI in a way that you can visually see the clear improvements using the techniques he recommends.

I can think of no better way to wrap up Big Thinkers week than to recommend the mad genius that is Mark Miller.

But wait, there’s more! This week I focused on Big Thinkers in the development community. Next week I’ll put on my other hat and focus on Big Thinkers in the SQL Server community!

Big Thinkers – Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin

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I’m devoting this week to “Big Thinkers”. I want to highlight individuals who challenge my thought processes and cause me to think about my profession, my methodologies, and force me to reflect on my skills. Some of these individuals I have the privilege of knowing personally, others I have only known via Podcasts or Twitter. I’m hoping that by highlighting these Big Thinkers you too will be challenged to grow and evolve in your craft.

“Uncle Bob” Martin has been in the computer industry since 1970. As such he has some great stories to tell, many of which I can relate to having gotten into computers in the late 70’s myself. Uncle Bob is not only concerned with coding, but with the act of coding. He sees coding as a profession and encourages us to take pride in that profession. He is also the inventor of the SOLID principals of coding. Most of all when I listen to him I think about the way I code, the way I architect applications, and stop for a moment to actually think before I start hammering out code.

Uncle Bob has been on many podcasts, including Episode 388 of Dot Net Rocks, Episodes 145 and 150 of Hanselminutes, and Episode 41 of Stack Overflow. I hope you enjoy listening to him as much as I do.

Big Thinkers – Richard Campbell

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I’m devoting this week to “Big Thinkers”. I want to highlight individuals who challenge my thought processes and cause me to think about my profession, my methodologies, and force me to reflect on my skills. Some of these individuals I have the privilege of knowing personally, others I have only known via Podcasts or Twitter. I’m hoping that by highlighting these Big Thinkers you too will be challenged to grow and evolve in your craft.

Richard Campbell is one of those people who, at least to us lowly mortals, appears to be able to do it all. He knows hardware, SQL Server, and .Net fluently. He runs his own company Strangeloop Networks, is a frequent speaker at conventions, and finds the time to do two podcasts a week. In addition to hosting he was also the interviewee, in Dot Net Rocks Episode 300 and more recently Episode 157 of Hanselminutes.

I got to meet Richard at DevLink 2008, and had a fascinating conversation with him in the bar for quite a long time. I can say that he is as friendly and knowledgeable in person as he appears on the show. Richard serves as proof that it is indeed possible to be proficient in multiple technologies, and forces me to think about ways to improve myself and to continually learn and grow. Whenever I hear Richard speak it inspires me to hit the books even harder to work toward the pinnacle of my craft.

Big Thinkers – Ted Neward

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I’m devoting this week to “Big Thinkers”. I want to highlight individuals who challenge my thought processes and cause me to think about my profession, my methodologies, and force me to reflect on my skills. Some of these individuals I have the privilege of knowing personally, others I have only known via Podcasts or Twitter. I’m hoping that by highlighting these Big Thinkers you too will be challenged to grow and evolve in your craft.

It’s hard to believe anyone would not know who Ted Neward is. I had the pleasure of meeting him at DevLink 2008, then saw him again at the 2009 MVP summit where we had several enjoyable conversations. Ted is truly a renaissance man when it comes to languages. He is best known for his skills in Java and .Net, and more recently F#, but his love for programming languages seems boundless. It’s not about knowing a language though, it’s about understanding how each language solves programming problems. For example, how does language A handle variables versus language B? What advantages or disadvantages does that approach give language A over B?

By attempting to understand how a language solves problems, we can take those techniques and apply them in other languages. F# is a great example, it is a language from Microsoft Research that is functional rather than object based. Recently though I have seen several articles on how to implement functional methods in C#, traditionally an object based language.

Ted has been on Dot Net Rocks probably more times than anyone one else, as well as it’s sister video podcast DNRTV. One of my favorite episodes was a little over a year ago, “Ted Neward on the New Language Renaissance”. Very recently he was on Code Cast, in Episode 21 he was talking about .Net and Java and how Oracles buy out of Sun affects the industry.

The most memorable podcast I have seen him in was an interview he did on F#. I was on my way to DevLink 2008, got about half way there when my poor old truck broke down. As I sat waiting in a local Taco Bell for rescue, I pulled out my laptop and watched some videos I’d downloaded including Ted’s F# interview. If you notice in the video, Ted is wearing a rather snazzy “I Love C#” t-shirt. The next day I get back on the road and once again strike out for DevLink arriving just in time for the last session of the day, a session on F# with Ted and Amanda Laucher. I was quite thrown to see Ted wearing the exact same shirt. I had to pinch myself to ensure I had not fallen asleep in the Taco Bell!

Hopefully Ted’s love of languages, his passion to learn different ways to solve problems will wear off on you too. And who knows, with his new found fame and fortune perhaps he can afford a second t-shirt!

Big Thinkers – The Alan Stevens Syndrome

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I’m devoting this week to “Big Thinkers”. I want to highlight individuals who challenge my thought processes and cause me to think about my profession, my methodologies, and force me to reflect on my skills. Some of these individuals I have the privilege of knowing personally, others I have only known via Podcasts or Twitter. I’m hoping that by highlighting these Big Thinkers you too will be challenged to grow and evolve in your craft.

The first person I’d like to highlight is someone I consider a friend, fellow MVP Alan Stevens. Alan hails from Knoxville TN and is constantly involved in community activities, such as the upcoming CodeStock and DevLink events. I like Alan for two reasons. First, he is constantly evaluating his skills and seeking to learn from others. His approach to coding strikes me as almost Zen like, in his quest to constantly learn and improve. Alan seems to be on a trip to code enlightenment, but (to borrow an old line) realizes the journey is as important as the destination.

Second, Alan has a deep passion for community. To meet with other developers and share knowledge. Note I did not say teach, although many would consider him an excellent teacher. Instead when Alan is explaining a concept I can see he is learning as much, if not more than the people he is sharing with. Alan is also well known for his evangelism of “open spaces” as a learning platform. If you have never been to an open spaces session, a group of developers get together and post suggestions on what to discuss. The group votes and topics are selected, and then a free flow of ideas ensues. These are truly remarkable, I highly suggest you try and attend at least one open spaces session if you get the opportunity. I honestly think one day Alan will launch a conference that is nothing but a day of “open spaces” discussions.

If you would like to hear more about Alan, I’d suggest you learn directly from him. In February he was featured on episode 420 of Dot Net Rocks:

http://www.dotnetrocks.com/default.aspx?showNum=420

Alan also gave an excellent presentation called “Coding In Public – If You’re Gonna Suck, Do It With Gusto!” which was recorded in video and placed on his blog. (By the way, if you are wondering just what the “Alan Stevens Syndrome” is you’ll have to watch the video!)

http://netcave.org/CodingInPublicSlidesAndVideo.aspx

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