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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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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

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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 altern...

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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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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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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 d...

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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 willin...

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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 tha...

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