Graham's Reviews > The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering

The Mythical Man-Month by Frederick P. Brooks Jr.
Rate this book
Clear rating

M 50x66
's review
Nov 01, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: computer-books

I read this book originally in college and then re-read it after a couple years of coding professionally. While there are certainly some dated sections, such as the idea of having the analog of a surgical team to code, many of the suggestions have held against the test of time.

The two most popular are "no silver bullets" and "adding developers to a late project makes it later." The former is that no new technology/technique will make an order of magnitude difference in productivity over 10 years ago. This is especially important when dealing with vendors or the latest proselytizer of a language or process ideology. I find this is a nice complement to Robert Glass's opinion that the biggest difference in productive teams is the quality of the developers. The second is more self-explanatory. The ramp up cost of adding new developers exceeds the value they will deliver within a reasonable amount of time.

There are also less referenced lessons to be gleaned from the book. For example, long before Agile, this book eschewed waterfall development in favor of an iterative approach. My favorite lesson in the book is that of conceptual integrity. In essence this is how Brooks refers to the idea that a piece of software should do one thing well and if it tries to fit many roles it will be a poor fit for all of them, instead of a good fit for one. As an example, he cites several Cathedrals that took centuries to complete. The Cathedrals that fell victim to egotistical architects in the middle or later stages of construction are less aesthetically consistent and therefore appealing than those in which the original style was respected.

Brooks also recommends keeping two independent career tracks for developers. In many organizations developers are forced into management after a certain level. Brooks argues this is a mistake and that in many cases it is better to let some developers stay developers. This requires title and compensation parity with the management track.

While many of the technology specific examples are dated, Mythical Man Month is a recommended read for every developer.
7 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Mythical Man-Month.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

06/01/2016 marked as: read

No comments have been added yet.