Brooks's Law

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Brooks's Law

"Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later" - a result of the fact that the expected advantage from splitting work among N programmers is O(N) (that is, proportional to N), but the complexity and communications cost associated with coordinating and then merging their work is O(N^2) (that is, proportional to the square of N).

The quote is from Fred Brooks, a manager of IBM's OS/360 project and author of "The Mythical Man-Month".

The myth in question has been most tersely expressed as "Programmer time is fungible" and Brooks established conclusively that it is not. Hackers have never forgotten his advice; too often, management still does.

See also creationism, second-system effect, optimism.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (
References in periodicals archive ?
But teamwork has intrinsic limits: Brooks's Law ("The way to slow down a project is to put more people on it") captures the tradeoff between the benefit of distributing the work to more people and the exponential growth in the inefficiency of interpersonal communication as teams expand (Brooks 1995).
Linux, Raymond points out, "[is] a project with thousands of contributors [and therefore] ought to be a flaky, unstable mess." Because the Linux OS has proven to be just the opposite, Brooks's Law (which generally has been accepted as a truism) is either wrong or incomplete.