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The Unicorn Project

A Novel About Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data
By: Gene Kim
Narrated by: Frankie Corzo
Length: 12 hrs and 24 mins
Categories: Business, Management
4.5 out of 5 stars (310 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Phoenix Project wowed over a half-million readers. Now comes The Unicorn Project! 

“The Unicorn Project is amazing, and I loved it 100 times more than The Phoenix Project…” (Fernando Cornago, senior director platform engineering, Adidas)

“Gene Kim does a masterful job of showing how … the efforts of many create lasting business advantages for all.” (Dr. Steven Spear, author of The High-Velocity Edge, sr. lecturer at MIT, and principal of HVE LLC)

“The Unicorn Project is so clever, so good, so crazy enlightening!” (Cornelia Davis, vice president of technology at Pivotal Software, Inc., author of Cloud Native Patterns)

This highly anticipated follow-up to the best-selling title The Phoenix Project takes another look at Parts Unlimited, this time from the perspective of software development. 

In The Unicorn Project, we follow Maxine, a senior lead developer and architect, as she is exiled to the Phoenix Project, to the horror of her friends and colleagues, as punishment for contributing to a payroll outage. She tries to survive in what feels like a heartless and uncaring bureaucracy and to work within a system where no one can get anything done without endless committees, paperwork, and approvals. 

One day, she is approached by a ragtag bunch of misfits who say they want to overthrow the existing order, to liberate developers, to bring joy back to technology work, and to enable the business to win in a time of digital disruption. To her surprise, she finds herself drawn ever further into this movement, eventually becoming one of the leaders of the Rebellion, which puts her in the crosshairs of some familiar and very dangerous enemies. 

The Age of Software is here, and another mass extinction event looms - this is a story about rebel developers and business leaders working together, racing against time to innovate, survive, and thrive in a time of unprecedented uncertainty...and opportunity.  

©2019 Gene Kim (P)2019 Gene Kim

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

This book is just ok. You are much better with The Phoenix Project

Let me start by saying the authors prior work The Phoenix Project is the best book ever written on Devops. This book really doesn’t match up. Simple put if you listen to the Phoenix Project you can ignore this book. What is unfortunately missing is more mr miyagi recommendations and frameworks that folks can leverage. There are just brief glimpses of it from The board member / bar owner Erik but overall it’s nothing profound. Unlike the last book where there are so many transformations with Bill and John. Sorry Gene this was the most anticipated book I had and I think you let us down.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Terrible performance distracts from the story

The audio recording contains randomly spliced in sections that appear to have been added later on, it is extremely distracting and really throws you out of the story.

For such a highly anticipated book the lack of care that went into this recording is simply astonishing.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Audio was horrible

The splicing of redo’s was bad, distractingly bad. Seems like they rushed it. I like the story, but not a quality audiobook.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • J
  • 01-12-20

Great follow up to the Phoenix Project

ideal book for devops and business.
1) Business will learn there is untapped potential in every market by using software.
2) Leadership and business can learn that software engineers have a lot to offer and benefit from the same motivation as any employee such as respect, not being overworked, training and career growth.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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This is no Phoenix Project

There are many things wrong with this audio book, the least of which is badly pieced in audio pieces from different recordings. The worst offender, is the unrelatable Mary Sue of a main character. Unlike our hero in the Phoenix Project, who had to learn what needs to be done (like the classic "hero journey" plot), Maxine just needs opportunity and a general nudge in the right direction. Eric still pops up as a mysterious Yoda like mentor, but he also is unrelatable. He has went from odd to cartoony. Maxine is sidelined for something she didn't do (she doesn't make mistakes like our beloved Brent), has disassembled vendor DB drivers and patched them all in one night, she is known for her patience, and unlike anyone I know-- loves and is amazed by every other team in the company that interacts with her. Oh, and no work/life balance issues like Bill, and she even has a puppy to play with (of course she does). Our villain, Sarah, even invites her out to lunch after Maxine snubs her, b/c of them being the same gender (the Sr. VP literally says, "Us girls have to stick together" in a meeting of mixed company). I wish Maxine and her whole perfect entourage was our only problem.

In addition to that, where TPP. the characters and problems were so relatable that people were writing the authors to see if they were writing about their company, here the problems are very hit and miss. Worse again, where TPP concentrated on the 3 Ways and 4 types of work, the TUP is less defined. Eric mentions 4 horizons and something else-- which I've forgotten. Something about being happy at work *shrug*. Maxine is a evangelist for functional programming and immutable data, and there are many other little things that get very lost in the book. In addition, either the author or John Willis said there's no learning without mistakes-- Maxine makes no mistakes. She needs some course correction, but never goes down the wrong path. That's another difference between her and Bill. B/c of that, the lessons aren't driven home. This makes it a 12 hour book, that would have been better as a 1.5 hour TED Talk.

The book will have great reviews b/c Gene Kim helped produced TPP and is a master in DevOps; however, objectively this is a huge miss. Anyone considering this that hasn't listened to his "Beyond the Phoenix Project" should get it instead.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • SA
  • 01-03-20

one star

This was so boring. there never was any interesting conflict to move the story forward.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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A great addition to the phoenix project

A great addition to the phoenix project. I wouldn't read this until you have read the phoenix project

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Inspiring book – fun, flow and Joy. Another master

Three principles, four types of work and now five ideals. For me, it is 5 star, no doubt it is “Best Seller.”

 

If you are frustrated developer/engineer (due to typical Enterprise issues, access policies, tickets to gain access, poor documentation, long processes), please read #TheUnicornProject by @RealGeneKim, @ITRevBooks

 

Gene Kim has clearly described our emotions, frustrations, and thinking. The engineers – developers/testers attempt to help, not to give up on our failures.  We all live in that character “Maxine”, and she lives in our day-day life.

The book talks about the workplace to be better, helps & improves developer productivity so that engineers could write better quality Software, sooner, safer.

Happy developers do more, give more, help more; help the organisation to move forward.

Every one of us wants our organisation to be successful, to be a better workplace, attract & retain talents; we want to work together not against each other. #TheUnicornProject portraits very nicely: Information not available readily, difficult to gain access, more issues, more tickets. The rebellion team is helping on their best effort to work together to move forward.

Maxine couldn't get the Phoenix to build locally, missing 100 of things, 2weeks away from a production deployment. How many of us are we there in that situation? How many of we are brave enough to raise the issues, give the visibility of the problem? Maxine character is very inspiring, a senior developer, solving challenging issues (Threading, race conditions, performance) and the same time working to improve the productivity – having Continuous Integration, build, automated testing.

If you want something to get done, you need a ticket - LB, Network, Monitoring, Integration,..n. The book narration might resonate well with so many. I am introducing the term - We know "TDD" test-driven development, have you heard of "TBD" Ticket Based Development?? Maxine’s frustrations with these and her curiosity to find more – understanding the why part and showing empathy – reminds us that we care for our fello team members, extended team members – listen.

 

Best part:

Bringing the books together discussed in – The Phoenix Project and The Unicorn Project – with familiar characters, problems.

Describing the leadership team, engineering team and their characters

The moments related – like hunting the documentation, access to the systems, code build, production outage, code merge exercise, functional programming, code mentoring at school, testing day

 

Read, listen, share – work together. This book is an excellent addition to every IT person personal or work or book club library. You will enjoy every bit of it.

BTW, new audible version as I am writing this review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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The message is worth it

The books style is a bit preachy and long winded but it’s worth persevering with

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Long live the rebellion!

Such a great story. I'm not a developer but I work side by side with them everyday. I can see so much of my organization in Parts Unlimited. This book gives me hope for the rebellion. (But there is a lot of weird post-editing in the audio - almost sounds like a different narrator here and there. It's distracting.)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Ryan Gannon
  • 12-07-19

Not very imporhant

A poor attempt to create a dev version of Project Phionix. The original having been more relevant. The story is poor, only getting going in chapter 10. And the narrator was exceptionally bad. Poor annunciation and no attempt was made to provide characters with distinct voices.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Martin Woodward
  • 11-27-19

The DevOps parable

As a software engineer helping with some of the largest DevOps transformations, I can honestly say this is one of the most impactful business transformation books I’ve ever read. The fictionalised narrative form is so hard to do well but like Goldratt‘s ‘The Goal’ or Johnson’s ‘Who Moved My Cheese’, Gene’s latest book manages to pull it off. What made the tale even more relatable was that for many of the characters, it wasn’t that they didn’t know how to build systems or were incompetent. Most of the characters in the book (with a couple of notable exceptions) are well intentioned, seasoned professionals - but that in the fog of difficult deadlines and complex problems it’s easy to forget the basics that allow you improve engineering velocity and focus solving problems for your customers. After listening to the book, I’m constantly spotting signs that remind me of Parts Unlimited but Gene’s DevOps parable is helping me hone in on these problem areas and bring them back to basics. It’s a book that will live with me for many years.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • DotCom
  • 01-12-20

To realistic to be a unicorn!

Another amazing book by Gene, the characters are too realistic. Anyone reading this book will resonate with the story and how the art of the possible can play out. Everyone from CEO’s to Developers should read this book.

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  • bothzoli
  • 12-15-19

A worthy sequel

I really enjoyed the Phoenix Project as well and was positively surprised when I found out about the sequel. Especially being a developer I was interested how the story unfolds from dev point of view.
The story is exciting the characters are loveable and the professional insights are spot on.
If you've worked with software you'll feel the pain of the characters and know that even though it's a work of fiction, very similar things happen all the time (although of course never where you actually work, but somewhere else 😉).
As with the Phoenix Project I really enjoyed how the story unfolded and how the informative parts were interweaved.
Unfortunately the narration (or rather the recording) was not the best, some parts were audibly re-recorded and the editing sounds very clumsy, but for me the content completely outweighed that.

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  • Andy
  • 11-30-19

As good and important as The Phoenix Project

As a developer/DevOps engineer in a large enterprise struggling to move into a digitally focused business I found this book a great source of knowledge and inspiration. The Phoenix Project was the same, but the ideas always felt more high level within the business I worked in so struggled to apply them for any real change, The Unicorn Project I feel closer to the key characters and will be attempting to use the teachings in my work.

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  • Matthew Zwolenski
  • 12-09-19

Excellent Story Telling

A great follow up to the Phoenix project. This book really captures the challenges business go through with traditional IT models.