The Mythical Man-Month


Featured Image source credit to Patrick Tomasso.

The Mythical Man-Month was one of those seminal texts that I had never got around to reading. First published in 1975, it’s often mentioned as of those books which “should be on every Developer’s book shelf”. So when I got a copy earlier this week, I set about righting that wrong.

Overall I found the book to be well written and the content to be staggeringly relevant. That’s no mean feat considering the book is over four decades old. That being said, there were more than a few arguments which I found somewhat controversial and some I disagreed with altogether. A rather unique characteristic of the anniversary edition of the book is that the author revisited points made in the original edition and was able to reflect and provide some additional context and justification.

When I read a book such as this I like to identify a small number of takeaways, things that I recommend one bear in mind when doing their day job, as they may well make things a little better. Here’s my top five for the Mythical Man-Month:

  1. Senior people must be kept technically and emotionally ready to jump back into the code (Architects, I’m looking at you)
  2. Each team should have their set of specialised tools in order to do their jobs efficiently
  3. Programming productivity can be increased many times when using a suitably high-level language
  4. Delegate power down to the individuals – creativity in the small
  5. Adding more people to an already late project (often) makes it much later

Should you read the Mythical Man-Month? Yes. If not for the timeless pearls of software wisdom, then for a first-hand insight into the wild-west that was the 1970’s software landscape.