Book Notes: The Unicorn Project

The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order by Gene Kim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For full disclosure I received a free copy of The Unicorn Project in advance of publication in exchange for a review. The content of the review are still my own independent thoughts.

The Unicorn Project is the second book about Parts Unlimited set at the same time as The Phoenix Project, whereas the initial book looked more at Devops this book looks from the perspective of a developer. As with the first book it is written in a very engaging manner.

Near the start of the book we are welcomed to The Phoenix Project by Maxine with one of her first challenges of getting the project to run on her machine, having been in a place where it’s taken a week to get projects to run I immediately empathised with the challenge. From there the book presents a few concepts throughout the story. In the first part of the book it focuses on the Five Ideals :

  1. Local and Simplicity – things should be easy to understand and pickup
  2. Focus, Flow and Joy – people should be able to actually get on with the job
  3. Improvement of Daily Work – always striving to remove process bottlenecks
  4. Psychological Safety – innovation is risky so people must be safe to take risks
  5. Customer Focus – a focus on value for the customer

The book briefly talks about the functional practice of immutability, the importance of data as “the new oil” and it makes two other points and cross functional teams.

From Zone to Win they look at ways the business can innovate by looking at “Horizon 3” projects (more speculative R&D) in addition to their core bussiness i.e. “Horizon 1” (bussiness as normal). For completeness here “Horizon 2” is the transformation where the core bussiness might need to be shaken to be able to cope with the new innovations.

The other concept which is worth mentioning is the idea of Core vs Context. “Core” is something which is core and unique to your bussiness, “Context” are things which you bussiness needs to operate but would likely be better to buy in as a service rather than run & maintain or develop in house. One tool which I found quite interesting on this was the Wardley map plotting Commodity vs Value to identify which you should develop and which just to buy.

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