Brooks's Law is an observation about software project management according to which "adding human resources to a late software project makes it later." This counterintuitive principle was coined by Fred Brooks in his 1975 book "The Mythical Man-Month."
Fred Brooks, an American computer architect and software engineer, introduced Brooks's Law in "The Mythical Man-Month," a book that has become a seminal work in software engineering. The law has been widely acknowledged and cited in software project management literature.
Brooks's Law suggests that increasing the number of software developers on a project that is already delayed will not speed up the project and may even cause further delays. The reasons for this include:
- Communication Overhead: Adding more people increases the number of channels for communication, leading to complexity.
- Training: New members need to be trained, and this training often comes at the expense of productive team members' time.
- Limited Divisibility of Tasks: Not all tasks can be easily divided among multiple people. Some tasks require specialized skills or are sequential in nature.
- Implications: Understanding Brooks's Law can guide managers to make informed decisions in software development projects, particularly those that are running late. It helps them realize that throwing more manpower at a problem isn't always a solution and may be counterproductive.
Exceptions and Limitations
- Simple Tasks: For projects where tasks are independent and don't require specialized skills, adding more people may indeed speed up the project.
- Long-Term Projects: In the context of projects with a long time horizon, the initial slowdown caused by adding more people may be offset by the eventual increase in productivity.
Brooks's Law has been applied not only in software engineering but also in other fields where project management and human resources are key components, such as construction and event planning.