Adding people to a project doesn't necessarily make it go faster

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This is an old one, but you'd be amazed how many people continue to fall into this trap. Even experienced project managers.

So it usually goes like this - the project is going along, and then for one reason or another it starts getting behind. The project manager starts getting nervous and looks for options. Somehow the topic of adding people to the project comes up, and the project sponsor is convinced to approve the additional expenditure (or maybe they are the one who came up with the idea in the first place). Seems like a good idea - more people, more work. But is it really?

The general rule I've seen is that the closer you get to the end of the project the greater the probability that the addition of new people will actually have a negative effect on productivity (or velocity as we say in the Agile circles). The exception to this rule is if you wind up adding resources that have already worked on your project (maybe they rolled off earlier to work on another project).

The root to this issue is learning curve. Every developer, no matter how skilled, is going to face a learning curve when they enter a new project. New business domain, specific use of technology on the project, and potentially a different general development process are going to take some time to get used to. So when they start off, not only are they not as productive as their teammates, but they actually reduce the productivity of the people around them, who inevitably need to help the new folks get up the learning curve. There's also an element of disturbing "the flow" which is much harder to describe or quantify, but it's there nonetheless.

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