Chief Programmer Teams

Harlan D. Mills 1971

Harlan D Mills

Harlan D Mills

Harlan D. Mills (1919-1996) proposed the idea of Chief Programmer Teams, which are now better known as Software Surgical Teams as a result of a chapter title in Frederick Brooks' book The Mythical Man Month (see below). The general idea is to keep a relatively small number of programmers (2 per team - a pilot and a co-pilot) productive by delegating their administrative and other functions to others. There are aspects of the Chief Programmer Team approach that are very similar to the modern practice of Pair Programming. The approach also leverages the fairly well established fact that good programmers are far more productive than average programmers, sometimes by an order of magnitude. Even though programmers do not require the level of personnel support today that they required in 1971, it is still possible to use this approach by making extensive use of automation tools.