Fighting Brook’s Law

You prolly heard of Brook’s Law before:

adding manpower to a late software project makes it later

While that is, in Brook’s words, an “outrageous oversimplification”, it captures a lot value. And as with most things, taking a step back by generalzing it, yields some interesting results.

Consider the recommendation (see for example slide 46 here) that anyone with experience with venture capital funding will give you: Only take funding when you don’t need it. In this context, you should use funding to grow a company that already works. If you need money just to keep it running, you might as well stop.

Kind of similar to Brook’s Law, isn’t it? But still, its kind of unintuitive. Let’s try another example:

Consider that you live in a time where you need children to take care of you eventually, when you can’t take care of yourself anymore. Was the reality not that long ago. In that context, would you start making children the moment you actually need them? Nope, its just Chuck Testa you’d start two or three decades before that.

Luckily for us, in software projects we don’t have to plan decades ahead. But the lesson should be clear: to fight Brook’s Law, add people to your project when you can, not when you need to.

Here’s the post as a gist, you’re welcome to improve it.


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  1. 20. October 2011 |16:30

    Well said!

  2. Nick Fisher
    31. October 2011 |22:01

    …slightly worried that you wrote this on the day I started work, but ok.


  3. 31. October 2011 |22:47

    You better be! Though that was no coincidence, on that day it wasn’t clear yet which team you’d join…