Brooks’ Law

Definition of Brooks’ Law

Brooks’ Law, named after the computer scientist Fred Brooks, is a principle in software development which states that “adding human resources to a late software project makes it later.” This concept highlights the fact that bringing new team members up to speed and coordinating their efforts often consumes more time and resources than the additional workforce contributes, leading to reduced efficiency and project delays. The law essentially emphasizes the importance of proper planning, team coherence, and effective communication in software projects.


Brooks’ Law: /brʊks lɔ/

Key Takeaways

  1. Brooks’ Law states that adding more personnel to a late software project will only cause it to be delayed further, due to the increased overhead of communication and training.
  2. The law emphasizes the importance of efficient team organization, communication, and collaboration in software development to avoid decreased productivity and potential failure of a project.
  3. To mitigate the effects of Brooks’ Law, organizations should focus on avoiding unnecessary delays, optimizing the size and skill set of the team, and utilizing effective project management methodologies.

Importance of Brooks’ Law

Brooks’ Law is an important concept in the field of technology, particularly in software development and project management. Coined by Dr.

Fred Brooks in his book “The Mythical Man-Month,” the law states that adding more manpower to a late software development project will only delay it further. The significance of Brooks’ Law lies in the recognition of communication complexities and coordination challenges that arise as team sizes grow.

It emphasizes the importance of efficient project management, clear communication, and preemptive planning in order to make software development projects more successful. By understanding the concept of Brooks’ Law, technology managers and teams can make more informed decisions and ensure proper allocation of resources, ultimately leading to better project outcomes and streamlined processes.


Brooks’ Law is a key concept in the field of project management and software development that highlights the counterintuitive nature of adding more personnel to a late project. First introduced by Dr. Fred Brooks in his book, “The Mythical Man-Month,” the law proclaims “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.” The underlying purpose of Brooks’ Law is to emphasize that splitting work among more team members does not necessarily equate to a more rapid completion of tasks, particularly when the project is already running behind schedule.

This concept serves as a stark reminder to project managers and team leaders to carefully consider the consequences of adding staff when facing delays, as it may inadvertently exacerbate the situation. Brooks’ Law is primarily used for evaluating decisions about staffing in project management, with the intention of identifying more effective ways to approach critical deadlines and resource allocation. The dynamics behind this law stem from a combination of factors, such as the need for new team members to get acquainted with the project and existing team members having to invest time in training newcomers.

This ramp-up period ultimately leads to an initial decrease in productivity. Additionally, as the size of the team grows, communication overhead increases exponentially, causing further delays. By understanding the implications of Brooks’ Law, project managers can instead focus on alternative solutions, such as reevaluating project priorities, reallocating tasks, and exploring process improvements in order to effectively address any issues and ultimately achieve the desired outcomes in a timely manner.

Examples of Brooks’ Law

Brooks’ Law is a principle in software development which states that “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.” It was introduced by Frederick P. Brooks in his book “The Mythical Man-Month.” Here are three real-world examples illustrating Brooks’ Law:

Microsoft Windows Vista:Windows Vista was initially planned to be released in 2003 but was delayed multiple times and eventually launched in

One major reason for the delay was a decision to add more developers to the project late in the timeline. As more developers were added, it became harder to coordinate efforts, leading to a decline in productivity and ultimately delaying the release further.

FBI’s Virtual Case File (VCF) Project:The VCF project was an attempt by the FBI to modernize its case management system. Initially estimated to be completed within three years, the project went over-budget and suffered multiple delays. In response, the FBI added more developers to the project, but this caused increased communication overhead and difficulty in coordinating tasks. Eventually, the project was abandoned in 2005, having cost more than $170 million without delivering a working solution. Launch in 2013:During the development phase of the website, a key component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the United States, the project faced significant delays and pressure to meet the launch deadline. To expedite the development process, more developers were brought into the project. This led to increased challenges in communication and making changes to the already complex codebase. As a result, the website had a problematic launch with numerous technical issues, poor user experience, and required extensive repairs and revisions post-launch.

FAQ: Brooks’ Law

What is Brooks’ Law?

Brooks’ Law is an observation about software project management which states that “adding human resources to a late software project makes it later.” It was coined by Dr. Frederick P. Brooks Jr. in his 1975 book, “The Mythical Man-Month.”

Why does adding more people to a late project make it later?

Adding more people to a late project introduces additional complexity and communication overhead. It takes time for new team members to get up to speed and become productive, while existing team members need to spend time training and coordinating with them, further delaying progress.

How can you avoid Brooks’ Law in your projects?

To avoid the negative effects of Brooks’ Law, consider the following strategies: plan projects carefully, create realistic timelines, avoid scope creep, invest in quality assurance, and promote effective communication among team members.

Are there situations in which Brooks’ Law does not apply?

Brooks’ Law primarily applies to complex, interdependent tasks that require significant communication and coordination. In projects with more modular, independent tasks, adding more people can sometimes help improve productivity and accelerate completion.

What are some alternatives to adding more people to a late project?

Alternatives to adding more people to a late project include re-evaluating priorities, extending the project deadline, improving the efficiency of existing team members by removing obstacles and distractions, and employing risk management strategies to prevent further delays.

Related Technology Terms

  • Project Management
  • Software Development
  • Team Communication
  • Productivity
  • Resource Allocation

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