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The Unicorn Project Review

It’s years since I listened to “The Phoenix Project” – a book I liked and recommended to friends and colleagues. So imagine my surprise when I received an email asking to review an upcoming “sequel” of it, named “The Unicorn Project”!


  • This review is late, the book release was at the end of last year
  • I did receive a free early copy, but the views and opinions about the book are completely my own

First things first – it’s a standalone book, not a real “sequel”, so you do not need to read “The Phoenix Project” in advance. It can be best described as “a follow up”. The story happens at the same time as the one in “The Phoenix Project”, not after. If you read the first book you will recognize some of the characters, but the focus is on a different group of them.

What I loved about the book the most is how easy it is to relate to the characters. It feels like if you are in the IT sector this is a story that has happened, is happening, or will happen to you. It is so easy to imagine how you sit in a bar and talk with Maxine, Kurt, Dave, and the others! It feels so much like talking with your colleagues (and ex-colleagues) at a bar! Even if the story feels a bit unrealistic at times, many things feel quite real.

The focus of the book is software development and architecture and some of the principles that enable teams and organizations to do great work and achieve more. The principles – so-called Five Ideals are:

  • Locality and Simplicity – have locality in systems and organizations that build them. Have simplicity in everything that you do
  • Focus, Flow, and Joy – improving focus and removing impediments to delivery leads to increased joy and satisfaction in people and organizations
  • Improvement of Daily Work – how the improvement of daily work could be more important compared to daily work itself
  • Psychological Safety – to enable great problem solving and creativity you need to have trust
  • Customer Focus – What do your customers want and are you actually building that?

The best part is that you are not just given a thing to follow and improve your work life. You are first given a story to put everything into context and reinforce the learning. Yes, the model can be put in a much shorter book and the whole story scratched, but this will not make the book better. Fewer people will understand it, learn from it, and strive to apply it. Of course, I personally like this type of book, so I could be a bit biased.

I loved this book and have recommended it to friends and family, yet it is certainly not without its flaws. There are too many dumps of information that interrupted the storyline. The story was good, but not as good as it could have been IMO – especially the characters. In other words – the story, the fiction part is not as good a book as it could have been. The model and explanations of it were still great.

The only major flaw for me was that some parts of it were not realistic. The speed with which the Rebellion team solved so many of the big technical and (even more staggering) organizational issues feels unreal! Yes, it could be inspirational and the book definitely shows a way to make it possible, but it went a bit too far.

Yet, even with this flaw, IT people will enjoy it a lot. It will be fine for non-IT professionals as well, but perhaps not such a great read for them – not like “The Phoenix Project” was. Maybe it is a bit too developer-focused – not that this is a bad thing!

I definitely recommend you give the book a shot, especially if you are in IT. You will not only enjoy the story, but it will also give you a lot to think about, and its something you will want to discuss with friends and colleagues. Who knows, you may even form your own Rebellion group!

Thank you for reading!