The “Brent” Effect

Raji Pillay
3 min readApr 9, 2019


My apologies to all “Brents”, if any, reading this post. The “Brent Effect” I have derived from the book “The Phoenix Project”. If you are in IT and you haven’t read it, please do. It is an eye opener.

I have had experience working on projects with Brent in multiple roles. I struggled to understand the cause of the issues that have riddled the project and the people when Brent is not channelled. The “Phoenix Project” was an aha moment for me. It helped me articulate “The Brent Effect” to myself.

Who is Brent?

Brent is your go-to person. He understands the application, the architecture, the downstream systems, the flow and everything else like no-one else does. He will find a solution for every problem.

What does he do?

He can fix everything. He is a nothing short of a genius. He will struggle with processes. He cannot say no. During a problem he will fix it but will be unable to articulate what he did. He is willing to share, but only when asked. He will take on more than he can deliver in a time frame.

How does it impact a project?

Every project wants a piece of Brent. A plethora of tasks will need to go through Brent for different projects to reach completion. This causes a bottleneck in the project pipeline. The work starts piling up at the Brent end. Projects that could have run in parallel are now competing for a resource. This is now a constraint for the projects.

At times, we blindly agree to their solutions or inputs and are wary of questioning them. Since we do not validate it the project at times, ends up in unanticipated situations. This in turn impacts the timely delivery of project.

Brent doesn’t have time or appreciation for the processes. This adversely affects the management of the tasks and deliverables.

How does it impact people?

Reliance on one-person impacts people in multiple ways. PMs or Managers want or ask for that resource and are uncomfortable with other resources. This impacts confidence and morale of others in the team.

Brent is so heavily used, he has no time to articulate, share and upskill others in the team. There is a clear dearth of documentation to help others as well. Letting go of Brent is not an option which not only hinders Brent’s growth but also stops others in the team from growing into Brent’s role.

What can we do?

Brent is a key resource and very valuable. He can be extremely conducive to a project when his skills are utilized in an organized way. Prioritize the work that needs Brent. Be insistent that repetitive work be documented and socialized. Let other people in the team step up into work that Brent does. BAU tasks should be rostered. Everyone needs to be patient while others are performing tasks that Brent would have completed in a shorter duration. All inputs should be validated with the team and any concerns should be addressed.

Processes should be followed and Brent should be advised of the need to participate in the processes and the value processes add to delivery and operations.

The above-mentioned inputs are based on my personal experience and derived basis my understanding from “The Phoenix Project”.

“The Brent Effect” is something I have observed across multiple teams and projects. When leaders or managers understand it only then can they work with it and around it. Brents’ are extremely valuable resources but they need to be given a conducive environment to work with. They need to be channelized in ways that is beneficial to the project and the people.



Raji Pillay

I bring my love for books, coffee, technology and life in general to my writing. Blockchain has caught my fancy and I am exploring it as I write.