Worth Repeating: The BigBook Technique
In the wake of yet another big-project implosion, this time Apple's Aperture photo editing software project, Marc Hedlund has trotted out a favourite story, which he says he'll repeat until it's common knowledge (and, presumably, no longer needed).
What he calls The BigBook Technique was a simple ploy used by a group of BigBook engineers to communicate clearly with their CEO about the reality of an impossible death-march project. They used Frederick Brooks' classic book The Mythical Man-Month in a unique and effective manner. Literally: used the book. Or rather, a stack of them.
Brooks wrote, over thirty years ago, about how project management bears only a passing resemblance to abstract math - for example, doubling staff will never deliver a troubled project in half the time. The article quotes what's become known as "Brooks' Law":
Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.It's a lesson business are are still, unfortunately, learning the hard way. This book is considered by many to be standard reading for project managers - the 20th anniversary edition published in 1995 added 4 new chapters to the original text. If all this is hitting very close to home: a second notable book for those who would rescue a project in deep trouble is Death March by Edward Yourdon.
Ronny Kohavi Dec 12, 2013