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Pink14 Preview: The Phoenix Project

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IT needs to embrace the “3 Ways”

Ahead of his presentation at the 18th Pink Elephant Conference and Exhibition (PINK14)Jack Probst, Principal Consultant at Pink Elephant talks about The Phoenix Project: a novel about IT, DevOps and helping your business win

In May 2003, Nicholas Carr wrote a Harvard Business Review article entitled “IT Doesn’t Matter”. In it Mr. Carr proposed that IT was, and remember this was just after the dot.com bust, being marginalized and could be thought of as a commodity.

Seems that thinking hasn’t changed much in the past 10 or so years. IT is challenged daily to just keep the lights on, at best, and, if all goes well, maybe try to keep up with the needs of the business much less get ahead of the game.

For those of us who are immersed in IT Service Management, that thought, at times, is a bitter pill to swallow. It is true to that the table stakes for IT is to maintain and manage operational stability but there is more to a day, week or month in the life of IT than KTLO. If we truly embrace the notion of a service – “delivering value by facilitating customer outcomes” – then staying abreast of or anticipating and preparing for the future of the business is or should be the IT mantra. The question is can IT do both? 

Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford recently published The Phoenix Project. Their book develops a landscape of principles and practices that attempt to answer that question. The book, written as an allegory, focuses on the trials and tribulations of Bill Palmer, recently named VP of IT Operations at Parts Unlimited Inc.. From day one on the job Bill is challenged to first stabilize operations AND deliver on a mission critical project – a project that could spell disaster if it fails. As the story unfolds the authors highlight ideas that should be on every IT managers improvement opportunities list. I would think everyone would like to get a peek at practical advice for how to deal with:

  • Demanding business leadership
  • Major incidents
  • Uncontrolled changes
  • Failed deployments
  • Security/audit issues
  • Overwhelming project list

At PINK14

At the upcoming Pink Elephant IT Service Management Conference, I will be presenting Sunday afternoon and again Wednesday morning some of my insights from the book.

There are many great discussion topics interlaced throughout the story. My focus during the session will be laser in on the results of when Bill reluctantly falls under the guidance and tutelage of Eric Reid, a candidate for the Board of Directors. Eric leads Bill through a set of hands on exercises to learn some key principles instrumental to elevating IT’s overall performance. Of the many insights, Eric continues to hammer home the need to focus on Bill finding ways for IT embrace the “3 Ways”.

  • First Way – Create a fast flow of works as it moves from Development into Operations”
  • Second Way – Shorten and amplify feedback loops to fix quality at the source and avoid rework
  • Third Way – Create a culture that simultaneously fosters experimentation, learning from failure and understanding that repetition and practice are prerequisites to mastery.

So why read The Phoenix Project

I have been recommending to my Pink Elephant clients to pick up a copy of the book and add it to their nightstand reading. Several reasons for this:

  • I’m sure you will find yourself at some point seeing your own situation through Bill’s eyes. I found the experience of reflection on the challenges Bill was having and some “ah-ha” solutions the authors brought forward would highly instructive, especially as conversation starters for ITSM teams at various stages of their program.
  • Many of the ideas that are being kicked around today in the blog-o-sphere and water cooler talk are fleshed out in a practical setting. Granted the circumstances don’t exactly match what my clients are dealing with but it isn’t a huge leap to find resonance with how the practices can be incorporated in their own ITSM program.
  • Lastly, it is a story after-all. One that we have all lived through to some extent. An entertaining read and, as one side note, there is some visceral pleasure in seeing the antagonist getting her comeuppance.

Why attend my session?

My focus for this session was to distill the many points and concepts that Bill and his team use to solve their challenges into a pragmatic approach for your ITSM program.

During my sessions I will dig deeper in to each of the three ways. For instance the in the First Way we will learn how IT must understand the 4 types of IT work and how that work is managed through what I call “the Funnel and the Pipe” or the IT Value Stream. In the Second Way we will talk about the “Tyranny of Technical Debt”, its sources and potential ways to avoid it. And finally my discussion of the Third Way will encompass Improvement Katas and DevOps.

I hope that you will add one of my sessions to your Conference Optimizer. If we don’t get a chance to connect during my workshops, then look for during the networking events each night.

This will be the best Pink Elephant Conference yet! I look forward to meeting you in Vegas – see you there.


Jack Probst

Jack Probst

To learn more find Jack at PINK14:

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