Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Mythical Man Month

This title is also the title of a book on software engineering. However, since that book is more than 2 years old, it's clearly wrong. In addition, it suits our purposes to redefine this well-known phrase for our ends. A phrase that's been redefined, is better than one in its original definition, second only to made-up terms, and that's an anti-fallacy.

The Man Week
The Agile definition of a Man week is non existent. However, Agile defines the maximum work a man can do in a week as 40 hours. Agile also requires that people work in pairs, which it claims does not half productivity as two people between them can achieve a solid hour's worth of work in an hour. Therefore, the work we expect from one man in one week is 20 hours.

The Man Month
It doesn't take a genius to work out the amount of hours that a man might be expected to work in a month from the 20 hour week. Let's call it 90 hours.

The Mythical Man Month
This is a myth held by management. It works as follows:
  • If I work hard, I achieve stuff
  • If I work harder, I achieve more
  • If I work longer, I achieve more
  • So, I should work harder and longer
  • If engineers work too long and too hard, they burn out and make mistakes
  • Somehow the pairing is supposed to fix that, with peer checking of everything, but somehow I can't expect a pair to work more than 40 hours a week between them
  • So, someone has to take up the slack
  • Managers should, therefore, work 90 hour weeks
  • Management-stuff isn't as hard as engineering, so you can work longer without burning out
  • So, the manager should be expected to work for a man-month each week
The beauty of this foolishness is that management become so snowed under with work that they're in less of a position to manage, and more desirous of the placebo-effect and signs of illusory progress. Thus the Super-coding-Agilistic-expert-alligator-consultant™ can step in and secure himself a parasitic stranglehold.

With thanks to M. Poppins


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