It wasn't until I got involved in software
development management a decade ago that I started
hearing the word "resource" used in reference to
people. I'd hear statements like:
"We have 5 resources on that project."
"The QA contractor is assigning 4 resources."
"We're hiring 2 more resources this quarter."
Over time, I've promoted this usage of the word
from pet peeve to minor pejorative to anti-pattern.
A resource can be measured, divided, moved, sold,
exploited, traded. You are a person. Would you like
to be measured, divided, sold, exploited, and so on?
I didn't think so.
Calling people "resources" objectifies them. It
implies having or needing a certain control over
them. It implies currency: I'll give you one
resource, you give me two. You are a person. Are you
an object? Can others truly control you?
The word isn't without merit, it's simply
misguided. My approach paraphrases something Dale
Emery told me once:
"The resource is people's willingness to dedicate
their energy on your behalf."
Think about it. Consider an example...
Suppose another division has agreed to transfer a
guy, let's call him Mike, to your Agile team. Mike
had been dedicated, motivated, energetic and
diligent, but his contribution on your team is so-so.
Does Mike still count as "one resource"? Did he
count as one before? Does this question even make
sense? It totally blinds us to the real issue, that
Mike the human being was willing to dedicate a lot of
energy on behalf of his previous division, but not so
As long as you have people deliver business value
(through the construction of software), you're going
to have to stop counting them.
You will have to stop counting them because they
are not robots or desks or staplers. You never even
paid them the same money anyway. It's the same
twisted thinking that built up the cheap-labour
premise of offshoring. It's the same thinking that
has given companies an easy finger on the downsizing
And if you're into Agile, you might want to
consider that famous line from the Manifesto:
"We value individuals and interactions over processes and tools."
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