Adding Manpower to a Late Project Makes It Later – Effectiviology - Deepstash
Adding Manpower to a Late Project Makes It Later – Effectiviology

Adding Manpower to a Late Project Makes It Later – Effectiviology

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Brooks’ law

Brooks’ law

Brooks’ law is the observation that “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later”.

Applied wider, this principle shows that adding more resources, especially people, to various types of projects is often unhelpful and counterproductive.


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Examples of Brooks’ law

A classic example of Brooks’ law is a software project behind schedule. This leads management to allocate more developers to it, which causes further delays because it takes time to train the new developers.

Another example is a project that could be handled quickly by a small team but is delayed because too many people are added unnecessarily so that communication and decision-making slow down.


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Humorous statements associated with Brooks’ law

Humorous statements associated with Brooks’ law

  • “Nine women can’t make a baby in one month”
  • “You get water by digging one well a hundred feet deep, not a hundred wells one foot deep”
  • “What one programmer can do in one month, two programmers can do in two months”.


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Generalizing Brooks’ law

Brooks' law can be expanded in three ways to generalize it and consider it in other contexts.

  • Brooks's law can be applied to other endeavours such as different types of business, academic, and hobby projects.
  • Brook's law can be applied to negative outcomes other than delays. E.g., adding people to a software project might lead to a worse product or increased conflicts between team members.
  • Brook's law can be applied to resources other than manpower. For example, adding money to a certain project might not lead to it finishing faster because spending more money doesn't address the real problem.


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Rationale behind Brooks’ law

Rationale behind Brooks’ law

  • Adding more people to a project doesn't mean it will be completed faster.
  • People who are already working on the project must spend time training newcomers.
  • It takes time for new people to join the project to become productive.
  • Time is spent on communication rather than work, which can quickly rise as people are added to a project. The larger a group is, the more agreement and organization it will need.
  • Certain tasks cannot be divided into partitions that separate people can handle.


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Caveat about Brooks’ law

Whether or not Brooks' law applies in a situation depends on various factors, such as:

  • The attributes of the people working on the project - their ability and willingness to teach others.
  • The attributes of the people who are being added to the project - their ability and willingness to learn new material.
  • The number of new people added to the project.
  • The overall team size.
  • The group's social dynamic.
  • How group members are expected to communicate.
  • The hierarchy and decision-making process.
  • The type of tasks involved in the project
  • Why additional manpower is added.


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How to account for Brooks’ law

  • To account for Brooks's law, you should avoid assuming that adding more resources to a project will help.
  • Assess whether you should add resources, how many and in what way.
  • Consider how adding more resources can help the project or harm the project.
  • Consider how effective adding the resources will be in leading to the desired outcomes.
  • Consider how efficient adding resources will be in terms of avoiding wasted resources.
  • In some instances, changing the project's scope or moving its deadline is preferable.


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Adding unnecessary resources

Adding unnecessary resources

If someone else in your organization insists on adding more resources, consider doing the following:

  • Ask them to explain their reasoning, and explain the flaws in it.
  • Explain to them why it’s a bad idea, potentially while mentioning Brooks’ law.
  • Help them find an alternative solution.
  • Convince them to add fewer resources.

A humorous solution is the Bermuda plan, which involves putting 90% of a company’s programmers on a boat and sending them to Bermuda so that the remaining 10% can finish the work.


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