We’ve all been there before – our project is in trouble and we need help to steer it out of the ditch. Often times we’re presented with the opportunity to add more resources to the project. Many hands make light work right? Not always. In this article I’ll explore the advantages and pitfalls of blitzing your project with more people.
Brooks Law is a theory that adding more people to a software project actually increases your timeline, not decreases it, which is the desired effect. It’s based on three basic principles, the first being that new resources require ramp up time to get familiar with the project, scope, tools and environment. The second is that the communication matrix increases with more resources to manage. More people means more paths of communication. The third talks about the limited divisibility of tasks. Are there tasks that require other in-flight tasks to be completed before they can be started? These are all incredibly valid points and ones that we as project managers have to absolutely consider when weighing the option of adding more resources to a project.
Before adding resources to your project you need to consider these points absolutely. When I’m adding people to a project as part of a crashing exercise I plot out exactly what I envision them doing, what predecessor tasks need to be complete before their activity starts, what supports do they need to get up to speed on what we’re doing and what impacts are there on the communications plan? An additional criteria that I often consider is the personality of the individual(s) being considered for the project. Often times if your project team is working as a well-oiled unit, adding a new personality can times upset that balance and be counter to what you’re trying to achieve.
While the points raised by Brooks Law are valid, with proper planning and risk assessment, adding additional personnel to a troubled project can often help in the recovery efforts. There is absolutely a tipping point where adding additional personnel is truly detrimental to your project (too many people billing to your project with not enough productive work to do is a common scenario). It’s up to the project manager to be plotting a course and a plan for each new individual joining the project so that they can be as productive as possible as early as possible. In a future post I will share some techniques for evaluating the value of adding additional personnel to your project and where exactly is the ‘sweet spot’ for the number and type of resources to help make your project a success.
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