Why adding people to a late software project makes it later?

That statement is known as Brooks’s Law, and it was coined by the renowned computer scientist and software engineer Frederick P. Brooks. Concretely, the original statement found in his 1975 classic The Mythical Man-Month is “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later”. Basically, the idea is that adding more analysts, designers or programmers to a project running behind the original schedule will delay it even more.

Broadly speaking, the rationale of Brooks’s law is related to knowledge management. First, when new personnel is added to the project, some resources have to be diverted into training or informing the newcomers about the project’s status, vision and philosophy. That will delay the project. Further, when the number of people participating in a project increases, so does the number of communication paths. Thereby, more resources (including time) are required in order to distribute the information. Regarding this point, you may be interested in reading my entry on “Knowledge Sharing” in Software Design, Trials and Errors.

Programmers from the Wild West

Analysis, Design, and related topics are for sissies, and for allowing professors of Computer Science who are bad at mathematics to make a living. SDLC is a pony. Cowboys ride horses.

We all know what happens when a project’s deadline is not met. Besides firing someone, hard, dry heroes appear. Lonesome, ruthless and distrustful heroes which brings the peace only revolvers can conquer. Sometimes, the guys with the money hire them as the ultimate saviors: they have bothered to come here, from the farthest west, to rescue the project. They are irresistible: they are the cowboy programmers. It’s men’s time.

Ben Cartwright & Sons
Ben Cartwright & Sons

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