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Mythical Man-month

When IBM decided to build its next generation it estimated the size of the project in months, decided on a schedule, and figured out that they needed a thousand programmers. So they hired them. Does it surprise you that the project was late? The whole idea of the man-month arises from traditional construction projects and was transplanted ``by analogy'' to software construction. Needless to say, it was a horror show of a project. Unfortunately this is not the only disaster for software based on bad analogies. (The whole analogy to ``property'' continues to do damage today).

The Mythical Man-Month [5] is required reading. It deals with the issues in managing large projects. There is much wisdom to learn from this little book. For instance, when you graduate and get a corporate job your manager will ask you for a schedule for your project. The question seems innocent enough and you'll probably do your best to give an accurate answer.

You just made your first software mistake. After 34 years in this business I know of no-one who can create an accurate software schedule. You schedule will be wrong. Worse yet, it will be wrong on the low side by way too much. But now your manager has your promised delivery date and he will give it to the customer. You'll be late, the project will be late, the customer will be angry and you'll be fired. There is much to learn. Lesson number one is never, never give a schedule for software.

(comcast story)


next up previous contents
Next: Scratch an Itch Up: Culture Previous: Culture   Contents
root 2004-02-10