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cog (4665)

Journal of cog (4665)

Thursday September 22, 2005
01:00 PM

A flaw in Brook's law

[ #26850 ]

Brook's law:
                Adding man power to a late software project makes it later

Not always.

I am living proof that Brook's law not always prevails. No, it's not because I'm extremely good in what I do (<joke>which I am, of course, cough, cough</joke>), it's just that Brook's law doesn't account for every possible scenario.

In this case, I was called to the rescue to perform a task that the main team could do anyway, but that could also be done by an outsider (thus saving precious time to that team), because it was a self-contained task for which no deep knowledge of the project was required. I simply (yeah, simply, I'll tell you about "simply") had to migrate a database, which proved to be a real PITA, but was doable anyway.

The project was late when I got there and was still late after I left, and the day after they told me the migration would have to be done again with some different specs over the destiny database (another PITA), but my point remains: the project was late, I was there, I finished my task, and I didn't delay the project further.

Hence, Brook's law not always holds.

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  • Actually, Brooks said that with the same caveat that you did. From my notes [perl.org] (not quotes) when I read the book:

    Tasks can be implemented in parallell only if they are independent and require no communication effort on the part of the designers/programmers. If not, the communication effort adds overhead which may overcome the effect of more people.

  • jplindstrom is correct in his reply -- Brooks Law is usually quoted out of conext.

    In justifying his law, Brooks specifically cited the increasing number of interpersonal interfaces (n**2) and the ramp-up time of the new staff (and the concomittant investment required by the existing staff in the new staff's ramp-up. If Rent on a pickup is less than on a bulldozer, or if there's a premium for early completion advantage; or if Supervisors get paid double rate ...)

    Splitting non-core tasks off and out-sourcing
    --
    Bill
    # I had a sig when sigs were cool
    use Sig;