The Mythical Man-Month

Before going on my biography binge, the last technical book I read was The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Anniversary Edition (2nd Edition) by Frederick P Brooks.  This is a must read for anyone who works in software engineering and/or management.  I've worked in this field for nearly two decades, but sadly hadn't read this "must read".  Discussing this one day with my Lead Engineer, Anthony, he was dumfounded that I hadn't read it.  A couple of days later he showed up in my office with his copy. (Thank You Anthony!)  I was reading something else at the time so this sat for a while at home before I finally got around to it.

Those who don't work in the industry might not be familiar The Mythical Man-Month by name.  But I'm guessing that if you've worked for very long you've witnessed it in some form.  So what is?  The basic idea is that "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later". This idea is known as Brooks's law.  For a real and complete explanation go read The Mythical Man-Month Wikipedia page, you're not going to get one here.

So I did find this an interesting and in-depth read even though I was already familiar with the concept of Brook's Law.  This is a book that was originally published in 1975, reprinted with corrections in 1982, then this anniversary edition coming in 1995, and me not reading it until 2009.  And the basis of the book was the development of the IBM OS/360 operating system software project in the mid to late 1960's.  So scoring this at home, that's 35 years between when it was originally written and my reading it…for a project that was 10 years prior to it.  So we're talking about events from about 45 years ago (just shy of my lifetime!) and the truly astounding part?  Although there has been many technological advances in computing systems and software since then, the basic premise still holds true!  And if you don't work in computers or can relate to this is your profession, trust me, it's true.  I live this on a daily basis.
July 16, 2010 @ 10:35 pm | Category:
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