Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Mythical Man-Month & Wicked Problems

Fred Brooks is one of my heroes. The lead architect on developing the IBM 360 series mainframe (the first successful general purpose computer), he wrote a brilliant book that everyone who does any type of business should read. His mantra: "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later." is now considered a given as he proved that the communication needed to get people up to speed on any given project offsets any gains garnered from adding manpower to the job. Time and time again, he gives illuminating examples of why meticulous planning is key before addressing any problem because if this is not done, failure surely follows.

When Brooks' ideas are placed in context with Wicked Problems, (Wicked problems are complex problems that change when you apply a solution.) interesting and unexpected connections between the two concepts arise as findings show that wicked problem solutions were “significantly better across all three quality ratings...originality, feasibility, and effectiveness” when respondents voiced their solutions as individuals and not as part of a group (Note, the experiment involved asking members of a large group to solve the WP problem.) When viewed in this light, Brooks' notion of flexible, right sized groups that encourage open ended communications from the get go work best on any multi person project including those involving Wicked Problems.

Addendum: Click here to get another take on WP.

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