"Adding Manpower to a Late Project Makes It Later" and Other Wisdom
I got a kick out of this article titled 11 Wacky “Laws” Named for People—read it and see if you have the same reaction—but I have to reject the term “wacky” for some of the laws.
Consider, for example, Brooks’ Law, with which you’re no doubt familiar:
"Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later."
Brooks was no whackadoodle. Indeed, he was a renowned computer scientist and software engineer. Brooks’ classic book, The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, has educated and entertained countless people on the human elements of software projects.
The above law, which appeared in his book, reminds project managers that when you add people to a late project, you have to allocate resources to orient, train, and inform the new folks. In the process, you’re increasing the number of communication paths. Unless managed carefully, adding people to a late project can complicate the entire effort, and this is true of almost all projects, not just those in software development.
A wacky law? Definitely not!
Next, consider Hofstadter’s Law:
"It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law."
This law first appeared in Douglas Hofstadter’s book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Despite our best efforts, we often underestimate how long a project or effort will take, whether due to poor approximating techniques, relentless optimism, or an inability to anticipate the unexpected. If you want to know how long your next organizational or technological change will take, you’d be wise to pay attention to this law.
And, finally, consider Sturgeon’s Law:
"Ninety percent of everything is crap."
For this one, we can thank science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, who expressed the belief that “it can be argued that 90 percent of film, literature, consumer goods, etc., are crap.” There’s some truth to this “law” even if it isn’t based on objective evaluation or careful analysis. By the way, Sturgeon published this remark back in 1958. Given the impact of the Internet, some people might be inclined to amend the 90 percent to 98 percent—maybe even 99 percent.
Note that Sturgeon originally termed the above quote “Sturgeon’s Revelation.” Somehow, it became transformed into Sturgeon’s Law, even though he’d already coined Sturgeon’s Law, which I cited in an article on critical thinking:
"Nothing is always absolutely so."
And that’s definitely not wacky; it’s something we should all keep in mind when we’re tempted to spout absolutes.
What other laws, wacky or wise, that are named after people have you come across?