Table of Contents

5 Lessons for Training Teams from The Phoenix Project

In the early 2000’s there was a major push in software development companies to find a better way to release software. This emerging movement was called dev-ops (development operations). In the book The Phoenix Project, the authors told a fictional story of a company struggling to release software and provided the main character and narrator a “guide” from the board of directors. This guide took the main character on a factory tour to watch the flow of work and draw conclusions. The idea was that the main character was supposed to draw inspiration from what the factory had learned about efficiency and quality and apply it to his challenges with releasing software.

The Phoenix Project

We, the reader, get to be inspired by the lessons from both the factory and the dev-ops team. I was particularly inspired by five messages which helped our team rethink some of our approaches to our training and development cycles at Endurance Learning. If, like me, you think of your job as successful when you are on-time, on-budget, and on-quality, then there are five valuable lessons I’d like to share.

1. Identify types of work

In the book, work is broken down into three categories: business projects, internal projects, and unplanned work. In most companies, the former is the most profitable, and the latter is the least. The goal should be to limit unplanned work by identifying the cause and addressing it before it reaches the design and development team. 

2. Align departmental (or team) missions

It takes a team to build a good course. We have several teams at Endurance Learning and they each have their own objectives. Project leads work to ensure the project is successful, designers and developers work to build a creative and engaging course, and quality assurance (QA) strives to make our courses extremely high quality. Each team adds value only if they are aligned with the same mission. If QA is competing with the project lead because they have feedback but the timeline is quickly approaching, they do not have the same mission. What is more important for this project? On-time or on-quality? That should be made clear before a project even starts. 

3. Identify bottlenecks 

On our team we decided that work should never sit for more than 1 business day without movement. Anything that sits for more than a day will continue to drop in priority and has a low chance of being delivered on-time and on-budget. Bottlenecks can occur at many levels, but are often attributed to one very busy person who is struggling to get to a task, which leads me to Brent. 

4. Identify “Brent”s

In the book, Brent is the resource who always saves the day in production issues. Because of the company’s dependency on Brent, he is also a source of many issues. My COO tells me all of the time that a task cannot be done by the same person all of the time just because “That is a task Brent does.” Brent occasionally goes on vacation or has competing priorities. Brent being the only person that knows how to do something can bottleneck a project, likely resulting in more work for others and risking the project success by not being delivered on-time, on-budget, and on-quality. Additionally, just because Brent always has done something, does not mean he is doing it the most effectively or efficiently. 

5. Implement Continuous Delivery

Don’t wait until a course is built before it is reviewed.  As we build courses they are published regularly for QA and ID review. We publish courses section by section, sometimes even screen by screen for regular feedback. This approach allows for continuous improvement throughout the lifecycle of the course development. 

By addressing each of these lessons on our team, we are regularly exceeding expectations of my three success metrics. In an upcoming post, you will see how we implemented Agile along the training and development cycle to operationalize our project work.  


Could you use some help getting your elearning projects completed on-time, on-budget and with the quality everyone at your organization expects? Drop us a line, we’d love to talk about how we could work together to make that happen!

Articles Similar to 5 Lessons for Training Teams from The Phoenix Project

Learning & Development
Brian Washburn

How “Mature” is Your Training Program?

How strategic is your training program? How outcome-oriented, governed or sustainable is it? In today’s podcast, Danielle Duran talks about how to objectively measure your training program in those four key areas.

Learning & Development
Brian Washburn

A Conversation on Inclusive Training Design with Jolene Jang

When I participated in a DEI-focused session led by Jolene Jang at a recent conference, I just kept shaking my head. She would point out specific ways to make learning more inclusive, and I immediately thought: there’s another thing I’m not doing!

Learning & Development
Brian Washburn

Where Sales Enablement Meets L&D

Natalie Mazzie, an experienced sales enablement professional, feels there is a lot that general L&D folks can learn from the sales enablement field. Here’s our conversation.

Maria Leggett on learning & development resumes
Learning & Development
Brian Washburn

A Learning & Development Resume that Gets Noticed

When you’re applying for an L&D job, how do you best position yourself to get a call from a recruiter or hiring manager? Experienced HR professional, Maria Leggett, offers her insights in today’s podcast.

Subscribe to Get Updates from Endurance Learning

Brian Washburn, Author

Brian Washburn
CEO & Chief Ideas Guy

Enter your information below and we’ll send you the latest updates from our blog. Thanks for following!

Find Your L&D Career Path

Explore the range of careers to understand what role might be a good fit for your L&D career.

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the PDF of the What’s Possible in L&D Worksheet.

What's possible in L&D

Let's Talk Training!

Brian Washburn

Brian Washburn
CEO & Chief Ideas Guy

Enter your information below and we’ll get back to you soon.

Download the Feedback Lesson Plan

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the lesson plan as a PDF.

feedback lesson plan
MS Word Job Aid Template

Download the Microsoft Word Job Aid Template

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the Word version of this template.

Download the Free Lesson Plan Template!

Enter your email below and we’ll send you a Word document that you can start using today!

free lesson plan template
training materials checklist

Download the Training Materials Checklist

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the PDF of the Training Materials Checklist.

Subscribe to Endurance Learning for updates

Get regular updates from the Endurance Learning team.