The mystical man month... is it the right solution to feature creep and shrinking schedule?
By florence perot, Apr 14 2013 06:06PM
Have you ever heard about the mystical man month? Well, I was surprised how many managers responsible for software development are not aware of it. This came out recently when I was asked to ask more developers to my project which had feature creep and a customer requesting earlier delivery than initially agreed upon.
What do you think will be the impact on a team to get a growth of 25% toward the last 2 sprints of the project to compensate for feature creep and the removal of a sprint? I am sure you will guess that it did not make the difference expected by senior management. Not the fault of the individuals. Adding a resource, even a knowledgeable developer, will disrupt the team: the new developer will need to get set up and understand the code structure to start being productive. This cannot be done without impacting the other developers; and this, at the bear minimum will probably cost a couple of days (out of a 2-weeks sprint!). Working on code development that minimizes the need to know intimately the code architecture can help. However, no code is totally independent and without review (of course, by the other developers of the team), it might break some other part of the project code. All this is without thinking about the impact on the psychology of the team: everyone is busy when it gets toward the end of the project; adding resources will disrupt the day-to-day routine of a team already stressed and not ready to take on more responsibility.
Watch out for that mystical man at the end of a project: yes, adding resources can help but at a price and not in the short term. It takes time for new resources to get ready and operational, absorbed by the team, and to know everything about the project without adding more stress into the system. Remember, a project is about resources, scope, and time: these constraints cannot all go in opposite directions without stressing to a break point the system. It is a balancing act: be aware that adding resources might lead to a need for extending timeline.