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The Unicorn Project The Unicorn Project by Gene Kim
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“Punishing failure and “shooting the messenger” only cause people to hide their mistakes, and eventually, all desire to innovate is completely extinguished.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“Simplicity is important because it enables locality. Locality in our code is what keeps systems loosely coupled, enabling us to deliver features faster. Teams can quickly and independently develop, test, and deploy value to customers. Locality in our organizations allows teams to make decisions without having to communicate and coordinate with people outside the team, potentially having to get approvals from distant authorities or committees so far removed from the work that they have no relevant basis to make good decisions,” he says, clearly disgusted.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“While the redshirts battle to contain the raging engine fire that is threatening the entire ship, the bridge officers continue to cover their asses,”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“If there’s any time that deserves courage and relentless optimism, it’s now,”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“Are we playing to win and to establish the technical supremacy we need to keep up with what the business needs, or do we just keep limping along, shackled to things built decades ago, and tell our business leadership to throw in the towel and stop having good ideas?”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“Ward Cunningham in 2003. He said, ‘technical debt is what you feel the next time you want to make a change.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“The Fourth Ideal is Psychological Safety, where we make it safe to talk about problems, because solving problems requires prevention, which requires honesty, and honesty requires the absence of fear.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“every incident is a learning opportunity, an unplanned investment that was made without our consent.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“There’s a very real cognitive and spiritual burden of having to carry so many unfulfilled promises forever into the future, where anyone can ask at any time “Where is my feature?”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“They start making a list: Every developer uses a common build environment. Every developer is supported by a continuous build and integration system. Everyone can run their code in production-like environments. Automated test suites are built to replace manual testing, liberating QA people to do higher value work. Architecture is decoupled to liberate feature teams, so developers can deliver value independently. All the data that teams need is put in easily consumed APIs”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“Innovation and learning occur at the edges, not the core. Problems must be solved on the front-lines, where daily work is performed by the world’s foremost experts who confront those problems most often.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“Microsoft, still has a culture that if a developer ever has a choice between working on a feature or developer productivity, they should always choose developer productivity.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“our competition is not the FAANGs—it’s the other horses in our industry and tiny little software startups that are encroaching on our market.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“technical debt’ is what creates hardship, toil, and reduces the agility of our software engineers,”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“a joke: “A QA engineer walks into a bar. Orders a beer. Orders zero beers. Orders 999,999,999 beers. Orders a lizard. Orders negative one beer. Orders a ‘sfdeljknesv.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“Everyone around here thinks features are important, because they can see them in their app, on the web page, or in the API. But no one seems to realize how important the build process is. Developers cannot be productive without a great build, integration, and test process.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“what’s the plural of ‘developer’?” says Maxine. “A ‘merge conflict.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“It is ignorance that is the mother of all problems, and the only thing that can overcome it is learning.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“The First Ideal—Locality and Simplicity The Second Ideal—Focus, Flow, and Joy The Third Ideal—Improvement of Daily Work The Fourth Ideal—Psychological Safety The Fifth Ideal—Customer Focus”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“But remember, we’re doing this so that we can be better prepared for the next crisis, when we will be equally ignorant of entirely new things that are just as important and will be just as obvious in hindsight”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“As Sensei W. Edwards Deming once observed, ‘a bad system will beat a good person every time.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“For the leader, it no longer means directing and controlling, but guiding, enabling, and removing obstacles.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“if we all want our developers to be productive, they need to be able to perform builds on Day One.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“I want to migrate us to MySQL and open-source databases wherever we can, because I’m tired of sending millions of dollars each year to an abusive vendor.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“I want to bring back the days when a developer could actually create value for someone who cares, easily and quickly,” Cranky Dave says. “I want to build and maintain something for the long haul, instead of shipping the ‘feature of the day’ and dragging all this technical debt around.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“I like to think that companies have two modes of operations: peacetime and wartime. Peacetime is when things are going well. This is when we are growing as a company and can continue business as usual. During these times, the CEO is often also the board chairman. However, wartime is when the company is in crisis, when it is shrinking or at risk of disappearing entirely, like what’s happening to us now. “During wartime, it’s about finding ways to avoid extinction. And during wartime, the board will often split the roles of CEO and chairman.” Bob pauses, squinting into the bright lights, looking across the entirely silent audience. “I want everyone to know that I have complete confidence in Steve and his leadership. And if all goes well, we’ll figure out how to get him the chairmanship again so I can go back into retirement where I belong.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“The job of the bridge crew is to ensure the company strategy is viable, not to remind them of the strategy or to micromanage everyone to death. Their job should be to ensure everyone can get their work done.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project
“we can only win by innovating and understanding our customers, which we can only do by mastering data.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“the part about the product manager not showing up for the demo pisses her off. What a disrespectful thing to do to engineers who built what you asked them to.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order
“why does everything feel like I’m dealing with a government bureaucracy or an uncaring vendor? Maxine ponders. Maybe it’s because when friends do favors for friends, we don’t require them to open a ticket first.”
Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order

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