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Johanna Rothman helps managers and teams solve problems and deliver products. Her most recent book is Manage your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects. You can read her blogs and other writings at jrothman.com Johanna is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 126 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

A Rant on People, Resources, Men and Women

05.06.2011
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Rant on.

There’s a flame-fest on the scrumdevelopment list about the use of “resources” or “people” to describe the human beings on projects.

I like “humans” or “human beings” or “people.” And, I actually prefer “resources” to “man-hours.” I can live with “people-hours,” and prefer that to “resource.”

I bet you’re a little surprised. I’ve written that People are NOT FTEs. And, in A Funny Story About Manage It!, I said that I didn’t refer to people as resources.

So why would I prefer to be a resource than repository of man-hours? Because it doesn’t matter how many hours I work, dammit. I am never going to be a man. (We can all be thankful for that!) I don’t count in man-hours. And, man-hours assumes that we can tell how long a task takes. Ha! Not a new task, which are the most interesting tasks. Fuggetaboutit.

I like calling people “people” and talking about what they as a team can accomplish. People are rarely fungible. (I’ve never seen true fungibility, but I haven’t seen everything.) Resources, to me, mean machines and other hard equipment. Every so often, I think of resource as the on dictionary.com:

a source of supply, support, or aid, esp. one that can be readily drawn upon when needed.

That resource might be a human who is not a part of our team. Maybe that’s a slip and it makes me more human.

I grew up looking for jobs in high school when the classifieds were split into “men wanted” and “women wanted.” The men’s section was always at least five times larger than the women’s section, and had the interesting jobs. I thought I was over it, but I guess not. I’m still rankled by the difference. At least “resource” treats us all the same way.

A project team is composed of people. Those people, working together as a team, have a certain capacity. Let’s keep that in mind, ok? I don’t care if those people are red, white, blue, black, brown, purple, men, women, something else. I care about how well they get along and what they, as a team, can do. Team capacity, that’s the key.

Resource is a backwards way of attempting to define team capacity. So, our HR departments (I much preferred when they were called “Personnel” btw, which they were when I started to work back in the age of the dinosaurs) don’t get it. HR doesn’t get much, except how to keep the company out of court. (See I Don’t Hate HR.) We, the technical leaders, will lead HR in how to hire people, in how to manage people, and in how to compensate people who work in tight-knit teams.

In some ways, I think of HR and their policies as a resource to me, as a manager or leader. But I certainly don’t think of the people with whom I work as resources. Sometimes I call them project staff when they are a group of people. Sometimes I call them a project team, when they work as an interdependent team.

They are people. Just like me.

Rant off.

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Published at DZone with permission of Johanna Rothman, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

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Muhammad Faiz replied on Fri, 2012/04/13 - 8:43am

I don’t like the term resources when applied to people and really discourage it. Teams ask what do do when they want/need a half QA resource. My answer is that testers are not ‘plug and play’; either they are part of the team, or they are not.

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