Skip to the content

Why throwing more people at your problem won't fix your problem?


“Just because one woman can have a baby in nine months does not mean that nine women can have a baby in one month” Fred Brooks, author of “The Mythical Man-Month” and the concept of “Brooks’ Law.”

This famous quote by Fred Brooks was an observation on software development processes in the mid-seventies. Yet it perfectly sums up the logic many companies still follow today when faced with various business obstacles.

For instance, many companies believe that extra resources make the difference between project success and failure. But can extra resources genuinely solve a problem?

All project managers can probably imagine the scenario: a tight deadline, imposed by a business need to get a product to market before a competitor, or update a business process before a fixed date because of legislation changes. There are numerous cases where a specific business need has a fixed deadline, and the project is initiated knowing it, and knowing the chances of delivering on time are slim. But still the project has started, and the project manager must plan and control the project within this immovable constraint.


More people, please!

Most project managers put in that situation would obviously kill for extra resources. Many projects start with an optimistic budget and little or no contingency, so when a plan starts to flounder – as they frequently do – a bit more time and a few more people would always be welcome.

But consider the following:

  • For every person you add to a business or a project, there are extra costs besides their salary.
  • They must be managed.
  • They need direction and encouragement.
  • They need benefits and a place to sit.

For some, this kind of business practice is a habit. For others, it is comfort. They like to add people rather than smart systems.

I know people who will not move away from the old ways. Instead of investing in building smarter systems, leaders slap down another $50K and hire another person that has a mere utilitarian role to constitute the old business system.

The creation of efficiency bottlenecks

In a world where automation, Big Data and AI grows more influential every day, there are still too many organizations that rely on manually updated spreadsheets and hand-cranked databases. One of the reasons behind this is that many IT professionals insists on what they believe to be a proven approach. They prefer projects to be managed with the help of countless spreadsheets, data updated (or manipulated) manually, and databases that are hand-cranked because of their familiarity, their ease-of-use, and general availability.

The problem with using spreadsheets is that they are not designed to be collaborative platforms from which you can update your team on scheduling changes, nor are they built to handle the inherent complexities that come with handling data spread all over an organization.


Remember this, dear IT professional.

  1. You cannot be sure you are dealing with accurate data as the spreadsheet is instantly out-of-date once new information is applied in another application.
  2. Instantly out-of-date spreadsheets and hand-cranked databases create efficiency bottlenecks that cannot be overcome by just adding more resources.
  3. Throwing more people into the mix just exacerbates the problem, creating more of the inefficiency you want to remove.
  4. So, while it’s tempting to throw people at the problem, it’s very easy to lose control of a project as it grows larger, particularly when more people become involved.

Ask yourself: can your organization afford to waste precious resource productivity by handling tedious and repetitive processes manually?


About the author

Leon Lauritsen

Leon has worked with multiple IT systems from ERP to BI and PLM. His experience ranges all the way from programming to business consulting, project management and business development. Leon started his career in IT development and has further earned a diploma in IT and Economics at Copenhagen Business School and an Executive MBA at Henley Management College.  

comments powered by Disqus