Mythical Man-Month, The: Essays on Software Engineering, Anniversary Edition

by: Frederick Brooks Jr. (0)

Few books on software project management have been as influential and timeless as The Mythical Man-Month. With a blend of software engineering facts and thought-provoking opinions, Fred Brooks offers insight for anyone managing complex projects. These essays draw from his experience as project manager for the IBM System/360 computer family and then for OS/360, its massive software system. Now, 20 years after the initial publication of his book, Brooks has revisited his original ideas and added new thoughts and advice, both for readers already familiar with his work and for readers discovering it for the first time.


The added chapters contain (1) a crisp condensation of all the propositions asserted in the original book, including Brooks' central argument in The Mythical Man-Month: that large programming projects suffer management problems different from small ones due to the division of labor; that the conceptual integrity of the product is therefore critical; and that it is difficult but possible to achieve this unity; (2) Brooks' view of these propositions a generation later; (3) a reprint of his classic 1986 paper "No Silver Bullet"; and (4) today's thoughts on the 1986 assertion, "There will be no silver bullet within ten years."

The Reviews

I read this book twenty years or so ago and I have given away several copies of it to others who manage groups of professionals engaged in scientific research and analyses. Although Dr. Brooks writes specifically about his experiences with software development, I feel that a reader could easily replace references to programming or software with the more generic "project" to imagine how Brooks' experiences might apply to their own work. The Mythical Man-Month is a very thoughtful treatment on the structuring of work groups and of the importance of communication within and among teams working on projects.

I read the original version when it was published and it's been immensely helpful for years. And now it's updated and even better. If you read and understand this book the you know why your phone and Windows operating system needs to get updates every few days, and why this situation will never change. And it you are interviewing anyone for a software related job then asking, "What do you think about Fred Brooks Mythical Man-Month?" is a great interview question. Anyone rating this book at 3 stars or less will never work for me.I agree with the other commentators here who recommend this book to people in other fields - it describes the complexities of all development tasks although it's very specific to the hardware and software field.

There are a million little insights into human nature contained in this book. Specifically, the nature of the sort of humans who want to do well, care about doing well, but need the space, time and environment to do well (which is not everyone, but this percentage of the professional community is MUCH greater than most managers seem to believe).It is remarkable how well this book has aged. We continue to invent new methodologies and structural fads in the software and computing industry -- and we continue to stub our toes and rediscover much of what is in this book.

I am a retired computer programmer, 86 years old, a career therein dating from a chance occurrence in 1956, and having been laid off from U.S.Defense Dept. work finally in 1987, when the Cold War ended. I was actively involved in working with the big computer at a Navy base, and involved in choosing a replacement for IBM 7090, so I heard a lot of feedback from aerospace contractors who got the System 360 about which the author is writing. After our assessment of available machines, we chose not to go on with IBM, but got another vendor. I have heard about this book intermittently through the years, always intending to acquire it. When I lately found out about the 1995 edition, I acquired it and read it with great interest. A very good exposition of the nuts and bolts that exist behind large projects. From my experience, as employed by the U.S. government and then by a contractor to it, I concur with all his conclusions, and welcome the 1995 additional material in which he clarifies some matters. Good reading and good advice. Must have!

I first experienced this text in 1990s computer science classes, and did not pay it much attention due to the archaic technology references. I recently reread it after pawing through Apollo 11 (50th Anniversary) and other 1960s technology, with new respect for his effort.Many of his ideas that were new knowledge then are norms today.So many gems, just a few:- Psychological safety is an important aspect of creativity- Programmers also hated writing documentation in the 1960s- If you are working in an "accidental" or supporting technology area vs. the actual value-added portion, be prepared for that to go awayHe did change his thinking regarding compartmentalization, which is clearly stated in the updated edition. One has to get past 1960s details (IBM OS/360, male references) and be a thinking enough person to see the ideas rather than just the words to gain value from this book.Someone at DuckDuckGo is also a fan, it hits on mm-m. Great book, and best wishes to Dr. Brooks.

A great book that tells you everything your project manager and lead architect are doing wrong, leading to the depressing realization that there is nothing you can do. Timeless wisdom.

I give this book to people very often. The author was the guy in charge of the IBM OS/360 project in the '60s. It's just as relevant today. It's easy reading and fun, with an occasional cartoon tossed in to reinforce the narrative.The moral is that the relationship of man-months to people is not linear.Anyone involved with project management or software development should read this book.

=== Excellent insights into software ===IMHO, Brooks has distilled fundamental truths; you might find his ideas slightly outdated; but all will agree Brooks offers at least excellent insights. To list but a few: build times determine programmer work cycle; agreement on high-level goals is essential; dev tools make a huge difference; visualizing code is a hard problem; programmers are optimists.=== Superbly edited ===If you've a background in editing (developmental down to line), you will be impressed by this text. "Perfection is achieved, "said Saint-Exupery, "when there's nothing left to take away"; and that is absolutely the case here. Every point is pertinent to the thesis, every sentence is necessary, every phrase concise. (I cannot say the same of Brooks's follow-on book, "Design of Design".)=== Classy ===Brooks was the project manager for the OS/300, a $5B endeavor that IBM bet its future on, an engineering effort of the highest magnitude, and a spectacular success. But whenever he mentions an aspect or feature where he feels OS/300 excelled, he always gives complete credit to whomever designed that aspect or implemented that feature; and whenever he mentions an area where he feels OS/300 fell short, he takes complete personal responsibility for the shortcoming.

The Mythical Man-Month is Frederick Brooks' seminal collection of essays vis-a-vis software engineering. From the title, one would imagine that the tome's unifying thesis revolves around the discredited idea that adding more engineers to a project will enable the project to be completed in fewer months, or, to put it another way, that the length of a project's schedule is a linear function of the number of workers assigned to that project. Using graphs based on mathematical formulas and on research conducted by other specialists, Brooks neatly dismantles the person-month myth - demonstrating, in fact, that in many projects (particularly if complex interrelationships are required or if the project is behind schedule), adding more bodies often increases the time required for completion.Despite what the title suggests, however, the above-mentioned topic is but one of many covered by this work. Other topics include the distinction between the "essential" and "accidental" elements of software design; the distinction between building a computer program vs. designing a "programming a systems product" (and the ninefold difference in complexity and time between the two); the quest for software engineering's elusive "silver bullet"; the importance of documentation; the surprisingly small percentage of time that actual writing of code occupies on the timeline of a typical software-development project (as contrasted with time needed for testing and debugging); large teams vs. small "surgical teams" (and why the latter isn't always the answer for all projects); the "buy versus build" dilemma; and many others.Much of the material in the first several chapters of the book appears obsolete (although there are still valuable principles that can be gleaned). However, in chapter 19 (a kind of "retrospective" chapter added 20 years after the original publication date), Brooks amends much of the out-of-date material, e.g., his earlier views on program size and space metrics (rendered all but irrelevant in this age of multi-gigabyte memory), and the degree to which the (albeit hard-to-predict) personal computer explosion and the growth of the Internet. However, even since the time of the book's revision (1995), further explosions have taken place in the computing industry - most notably with regards to Web 2.0, the ubiquity of data-driven Web applications (these even obsoleting many shrink-wrapped products), Web services, and development methodologies such as Agile and XP - that even chapter 19 may seem a little out-of-date to the modern developer. In spite of this, the principles of the book are still applicable: the chapters on estimation, team size, and the dismantling of the person-month myth are enough to make this tome required reading for developers and managers alike - especially the latter.

Oddly, I was reminded of this classic work whilst reading Chris Date's otherwise quite unremarkable tome, "The Third Manifesto". Date and Darwen cite this classic text admiringly. And this may be the most important contribution to have emerged from their efforts. Having toiled in the Information Technology field for decades, I was, of course, familiar with many of the gems of wisdom that were first articulated by Brooks in this classic book. But it was a true joy and revelation finally to read the book itself from cover to cover.Among the pearls of wisdom contained within these pages are the following:Adding people to a late software project tends to make it later.While it takes one woman nine months to give birth, nine women cannot accomplish the same task in one month. (Hence, the concept of the mythical man month. People and time are not interchangeable commodities.)The factor most dispositive of success in software engineering is conceptual integrity.The first duty of the manager is create a concise and precise written plan.Communication, and its attendant, organization, require as much skill and careful consideration as any other aspect of technical project leadership.There are many, many more wonderful insights contained within the corpus of this outstanding book. While dated, no doubt, the truths that emerge from careful consideration of this important work are that overcoming problems of human interaction are really paramount to success in any task as complicated as software engineering and that the discipline of software engineering is perhaps one of the most wonderfully rewarding career paths open to creative and serious folks even today. This outstanding book rightly deserves an honored place in the library of any person who would succeed in a career in information technology now, or in the future. Yes, it deals with human factors that some may argue can be overcome by technology. But, as Brooks so cogently demonstrates in his wonderful essay on the "silver bullet", the search for the final solution to the problem of software engineering is very much like the hope to slay the mythical werewolf with a silver bullet in that it is a search for an enigma to deal with a chimera. It can't realistically hope to succeed.Finally, in assessing the timeless importance of this classic, we are reminded of the sage advise of that great philosopher, Arnold Schwarzenegger, that, when working with people, everything is political. Yes, the human factors always do matter. And Dr. Brooks has illuminated those human factors of software engineering in a manner both satisfying and edifying. Pick up this timeless classic. Absorb the teachings. And watch your productivity and effectiveness in the discipline soar. God bless.

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It is a pretty top, but def more blue than teal, and kinda short

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Top is still comfy even though very shiney. Cool look!

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