CLOSE
May
16
2017
The Mythical Man-Month

myth
/miTH/
noun
: a widely held but false belief or idea.

The myth is that when you add a person to a project that you will get that person’s worth of productivity.  In fact you get less than that.

If you’ve ever worked on a project under a time crunch, then you may have heard the phrase “mythical man-month.” Some people think throwing more bodies at a project will make it go faster, but the more people you add the less you get for each one added. Adding manpower to a late project makes it, well…. later. In other words, some number of cooks are necessary to prepare a dinner, but adding too many cooks in the kitchen can inflate the delivery schedule. The inflation effect is due to the time required for the newcomers to learn about the project, as well as the increased communication overhead.

Want to know why large groups sometimes don’t work? Because they can’t, due to the number of channels.

 

THE BASIC IDEA

For every person added to a project, you also add a magnitude of lines of communication, which makes things more complicated than it previously was. Adding people to a project with the intention to speed up production, right away has diminishing returns.

 

Let’s see what this looks like.

2 people – 2 lines of communication
3 people – 6 lines of communication
4 people – 12 lines of communication

5 people – 20 lines of communication

 

It should be pretty obvious that the lines of communication go through the roof just after a few people are involved!

Once you go above 3 people in a project, it’s probably time to incorporate a process to make those lines of communication fewer and far between. A common approach is to add a project manager, creating a central hub of communication and help eliminating crossing lines of communication. Here at MAKE, we do so by having a project manager being the “middleman.” The project manager communicates with our clients and with the people working on the project. Having a project manager helps us to keep our clients consistently in contact with one person, instead of several people. This helps our whole “in-house” process by staying organized and on track.