The 11 Golden Laws of Project Management

All professionals agree to say that there are several specific steps to implement, such as the resource optimisation, promoting performance, collaborating, etc. Project Management, therefore, comprises several immutable rules, in particular in terms of software development.


1. Brooks’ Law

Frederick Brooks: «Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.»

Adding programmers to an existing team hoping to optimise both their work and productivity will not have the desired outcome, especially if the project has already been delayed. Adding new workers will indeed disturb the organisation and thus delay the project realisation.

2. Conway’s Law

Melvin Conway: «Any organisation that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organisation’s communication structure.»

A software actually reflects the organisation that created it. This law may seem simple. However, it is not that easy to implement complex projects when you do not have the financial resources. The bigger the company, the most innovating and complex the project should be. Software that has been criticised because of internal bugs will thus give a bad image of the company, especially if the latter had a good reputation.

3. Murphy’s Law

Edward A. Murphy Jr.: «Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.»

Murphy’s law is based on a simple principle: the first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time. If companies do respect this law, they will complete their projects by the deadline more easily, while respecting the granted budget.

4. Wirth’s Law

Niklaus Wirth: «Software is getting slower more rapidly than hardware becomes faster.»

Software quickly grows heavy. As a result, the material performances cannot always respond to the needs of a project. In order to stay on course, a company will have to combine both performance and innovation as regards software development and other IT solutions.

5. Fitt’s Law

Paul Fitts: «The time required to rapidly move to a target area is a function of the ratio between the distance to the target and the width of the target.»

The time required to move to a target area will depend on its width but also on the distance to the target. In other words, in order to efficiently manage a big project, one will have to divide the main project into several small objectives that will be completed more easily. This will also reduce the time spent realising it as well as looking for techniques to optimise its process.

6. Lakein's Law

Alan Lakein: «By failing to plan, you will free very little if any time, and by failing to plan you will almost certainly fail.»

A carefully planned project is quintessential. Quite often, organisations rush the planning process and value the execution of the project above all else. However, planning is how to deal with the temporary and unique characteristics of projects.

7. Horstman's Law

Mark Horstman: «People and their behaviors are what deliver results.»

All projects can be segmented, each segment is made up of tasks, each task is accomplished by people, within certain time frames. Despite all protestations to the contrary, no matter how complex the project, they all boil down to who is responsible for doing something, what they're responsible for, and when they should have it done by. Project management methodologies such as PRINCE2, AgilePM, ... you can help yourself to improve the planning of your projects to deliver on time and within budget.

8. O' Brochta's Law

Michael O' Brochta: «Great project managers have mastered the basics and have the discipline to adhere to them.»

Project management is all about applying common sense with uncommon discipline. Many people outside and new to the field of project management believe it to be a highly technical, mathematically laden exercise. No wonder then that two of the most feared aspects of the PMP exam are the critical path method and earned value management. However, the difficulty is negligible. Clearly, there is something more to good project management than math and engineering and that thing is most probably methodological common sense which you can learn through project management certifications.

9. Allen's Law

Thomas Allen: «The efficiency of communication exponentially decreases according to the physical distance between people.»

The content of discussions usually changes according to the involved people. We will have the tendency to add or omit details creating thus differences with respect to the previous discussion.

10. Parkinson’s Law

Cyril Northcote Parkinson: «Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.»

This law lays on a simple idea: when someone has got tasks to complete, it is better to implement them as soon as possible and thus avoid procrastinating. The more you will wait before realizing a project, the more difficulties you will have when implementing other important tasks.

11. Hartree’s Law

Douglas Hartree: «The time from now until the completion of the project tends to become constant.»

Ultimately, Hartree’s law states that whatever the complexity of a project, the time estimated by the project manager will have to remain constant.


If you want to plan a project, remind yourself of these golden rules and think about adopting a recognized project management methodology.


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