The Mythical Man Month

(from Wikipedia)

The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering is a book on software engineering and project management by Fred Brooks, whose central theme is that “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later”. This idea is known as Brooks’s law, and is presented along with the second-system effect and advocacy of prototyping.

Brooks’ observations are based on his experiences at IBM while managing the development of OS/360. He had added more programmers to a project falling behind schedule, a decision that he would later conclude had, counter-intuitively, delayed the project even further. He also made the mistake of asserting that one project — writing an ALGOL compiler — would require six months, regardless of the number of workers involved (it required longer). The tendency for managers to repeat such errors in project development led Brooks to quip that his book is called “The Bible of Software Engineering”, because “everybody quotes it, some people read it, and a few people go by it”.The book is widely regarded as a classic on the human elements of software engineering community.

The work was first published in 1975 (ISBN 0-201-00650-2), reprinted with corrections in 1982, and republished in an anniversary edition with four extra chapters in 1995 (ISBN 0-201-83595-9), including a reprint of the essay “No Silver Bullet” with commentary by the author.


Brooks is one of the fathers of Software Engineering, being this book (along with the paper No silver bullet) a milestone, a classic manuscript of the Software Engineering comunity.

Brooks formulated his ideas before the e-communication era, when even elementary e-communication tools were not widely available and used. This shows Brooks’ high awareness to human communication and its development yet to come at that time.

When he wrote “The Mythical Man Month”, most software development processes were waterfall-model based, even it was known to be ineffective and inappropriate this sort of processes. I consider relevant to set a clear view on how software management was carried out before the “Agile Era”, its roots, and what made it evolve into these new methodologies.

In many ways, managing a large computer programming project is like managing any other large undertaking—in more ways than most programmers believe. But in many other ways it is different—in more ways than most professional managers expect.

This book is a belated answer to why programming is hard to manage.

_ Fred Brooks

What I intend is to summarize the book chapter by chapter extracting the main ideas.
As long as I finish each summary it will be available in the index below:

Chapter 1 – The Tar Pit
Chapter 2 – The Mythical Man-Month
Chapter 3 – The Surgical Team
Chapter 4 – Aristocracy, Democracy, and System Design
Chapter 5 – The Second-System Effect
Chapter 6 – Passing the Word
Chapter 7 – Why Did the Tower of Babel Fail?
Chapter 8 – Calling the Shot
Chapter 9 – Ten Pounds in a Five-Pound Sack
Chapter 10 – The Documentary Hypothesis
Chapter 11 – Plan to Throw One Away
Chapter 12 – Sharp Tools
Chapter 13 – The Whole and the Parts
Chapter 14 – Hatching a Catastrophe
Chapter 15 – The Other Face
Chapter 16 – No Silver Bullet—Essence and Accident
Chapter 17 – “No Silver Bullet”Refired
Chapter 18 – Propositions of The Mythical Man-Month: True or False?
Chapter 19 – The Mythical Man-Month after 20 Years –