Management Lessons from The Phoenix Project

The Phoenix Project is novel about IT, DevOps, and helping business to win in a competitive retail market. A lot of friends in office recommended me this novel so I decided to give a shoot. They all say it’s so resonate with life in IT company; development, quality assurance, deployment, bug fixing, and system down, are just few examples of day to day typical encounter for us. Life in IT is hard, and this novel make me realize that it’s even harder when you have no idea how to manage that complex work. So this book for me is more like business and management lessons for whoever want to solve complex problem from higher level. I always thought what’s executive management people actually do. Because at the end, it’s all down to engineer people like me to solve their problem, the escalated issues, the bugs that always exist, or some tricky way to solve problem and then once it’s solved the credit goes to management people like engineer don’t exist. What’s so great about them that they deserve higher credit (and paycheck)? This book answered that question. In fact the book gives me as sense of problem solving skill that is more sustainable in the organization.

Think of it just like two complementary different set of skills, one focuses on low level problem like designing architecture, or finding the most efficient algorithm. That’s great and hard skill to be mastered at, and every IT industry is rooting their business to folks like that. The other one focuses on much higher level. These people have little idea about code implementation and how they work, they might not even know how to code effectively. But these people are so great at planning the work flow, managing the resources over works, and preventing minimum outage from happening. These skills are different level of intelligence, their brain work differently compare to the technical geeks, it’s more on looking problems from higher system. People who master on this has laid their way down to the leadership path. I find my self appreciating executive people more than before. Let’s accept this, they have more pressure, more complex problems, longer work-hour, and of course more paycheck!

Before going further, what is DevOps? DevOps is set of practices/formula that aims to integrate the process of software development and software operation within project. In other words, DevOps is continuous software project life cycle from the moment the code is checked in until the code package is deployed in production to finally reach customer as finish goods. DevOps make sure that project is delivered on time with full required features at minimum defects. This book in a nutshell talk about DevOps principles and why they are important to business. These principles could also apply to non IT work for example manufacturing process. In fact most of the case studies are derived from manufacturing line because their entire work flow is more visible, hence it’s easier to track them down. There are three principles in which all DevOps pattern is derived from, they called The Three Ways.

First Way, always think the entire performance of system as opposed to specific performance of department. This will help us understand how to fast flow of work as it moves from Development into IT Operations.

Second Way, amplify feedback loops between Development to Operations, in my office we called it Retrospective. It’s an hour session to evaluate the past project of what goes wrong and how to improve it in the next cycle. But my case is a practice within the Development side, Second Way talk about cross functional feedback. This is the most critical part, if you understand it well, you could solve some serious problem related with work throttling which is the heart constraint of any business process. The goal is to keep up with the market demand by doing continuous delivery. In manufacturing they have a measure called takt time, which is the number of cycle needed to keep up with customer demand. If any operation in the flow is longer than takt time, you will not able to keep up with customer demand. For instance, company want to deliver two features to the market in one week time. But the deployment time (or final assembly time in manufacturing) takes 1 weeks to fully operate with the new changes, which in turn impossible for business to keep up with the market demand. Having feedback loops would allow us to identify which part among the process becomes the constraint and therefor try to minimize the takt time.

Third Way, create culture that foster two things; continual experimentation, taking risk, and learn from failure; and understanding that repetition and practice are prerequisites to mastery.

I would recommend this book highly to people trying to understand higher level thinking in IT business, what those calibre of CEO or VPs think in mind when problem arise, pretty interesting for me. The only downside of this book is that it’s quite hard to read by non-IT people, but if you’re patient enough until every terms are explained that shouldn’t be major problems. Go read!

2 Poor Kids

I don’t want no time on the big screen

I’m okay with me and my jeans and you, and you

They think it’s a shame

That the world will never know our names

But I think that’s okay

Cause love gets ruined by money and power and fame and

We’re just two poor kids from a really rich city

Cause we’ve got love story unlike the rest

No fancy suite and no fancy dress

(Ruth B – 2017)

When Breath Becomes Air: a Chronicle of Neurosurgeon Facing Death


It has been a week now since I finished the book, and I did actually read it 2 times and still got the same goosebumps feeling and misty-eye all around, bet you should definitely too. So I decided to write this, to understand of the emotion that Paul has put me through. I am not going to write book resuming here, rather, I am going to use this book to redo self-reflexion myself, something with life and death I should have raised question earlier. When Breath Becomes Air is piece of art. It’s a memoir of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon Stanford-trained, hold degree in Human Biology from Stanford, double degree in Literature and Philosophy from Stanford and Cambridge, and a medical student graduate from Yale Medical School. In 35 years old, he is one year to go to completing his 7 years neurosurgical residency training from Stanford. He also received the American Academy of Neurological Surgery’s highest award for research. Prior to his graduation, he has been offered position as professor from Stanford Med School and various US top Institutions. What a profile, what a gifted and dedicated young person. He seemed to get what he had dreamed for, become top neurosurgeon, fielded academic career, by right he could see himself and his family in the promised land. But… sometimes things didn’t work out that way, a top neurosurgeon for cancer got cancer himself, out of blue. He turned from being top neurosurgeon to being a meek patient diagnosed with IV lung cancer.

Reading this book I realized how quick one story could be flipped upside down in the face of mortality without asking permission. In a person of caliber Paul, we would see his bright future over the horizon, we could smell things he could accomplish and contribute to humanity. And if only he had not died that early, he would have achieved so much. But life isn’t like that. When death is paying his personal visit, it derails you from trajectory you have worked so hard, alters your plan, and it fucks you over. As medical surgery technology advances nowadays, we can manipulate and gratify and do whatever we could to avoid being die. But we all human. And human do what human can do. We all knee down in front of mortality. At the end, it’s about question Paul has posed, what makes your life meaningful enough to go on for living? Paul realized at the very beginning that what matter is not about being survive or die -he knew that one day he is going to die. He has witnessed often times of his patient miserably survived from cancer; they did survive, but life won’t be the same anymore. They become meaningless. But Paul was different. He embraced death with bravery. As hopeless as it could, he managed to calculate what was the most important things he wanted to do given his remaining time. He would want to make the most out of him even under severe circumstances. Give me number of 10 years, I would return to OR become neurosurgeon. Give me 3 years, I would spend my life writing book I always wanted to write. Give me months, I would spend my days with family. He always knew what make his life meaningful, and whom his meaningful life would be best dedicated for. I was weeping out couldn’t bear his outmost optimism when saying, even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I’m still living. I really felt what he was saying, ended up questioning my self… How long have I actually got left.

I came to understand that shouldn’t we all be like Paul? Paul had become alerted of his mortality waving down the road since cancer disseminated him. And he reacted and planned his life accordingly. What make us any difference with Paul if our own mortality is also waving us? My religion put a high reminder that death could visit any time to anyone in anywhere. I could provide no guarantee a healthy person like me could stay any longer than Paul could possibly do. But maybe -just maybe- our self awareness are obscured by assuming how far that time could actually come. In fact it is not. We should become as alert as Paul did that every second means our distance has been shortened by a second. We have been becoming closer and closer to host our mortality visit. In Islam we are thought that life is not about things being abandoned, also about preparing the next life. It’s not enough to just being good and made meaningful life, it requires more of such religious obligation. And this I think should motivate us enough to prepare even more.

I like this book so much. And I admire person like Paul. He was deep thinker, he was humble, he was brave, he questioned life and its meaning, he looked the answer with philosophy, literature, and neuroscience -how these were connected, he struggled to understand the nature of life and death, wouldn’t death itself be a perfect gift for a person who’s trying to understand it? He said. Reading his writing I felt like he was telling the story as it happened. And it was real, Paul himself is real, as Lucy his wife said in Epilogue, what happened to Paul was tragic, but he was not tragedy. I didn’t feel as moved as reading this when reading Tuesdays With Morrie. Believe me this guy know how to write well. I bet his literature degree had influenced him highly. Lastly I would like to quote his last message to his daughter, which I think very much emotional.

When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.