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The word resource

Yesterday I blogged about resource planning and not long after publication, Dave Rooney (http://practicalagility.blogspot.com/2011/08/im-not-resource.html) posted a comment about the word resource.

I have some memory of this discussion, but I’ve not paid it any attention until now. I viewed the film and I can see some point to making a distinction between the words “person” and “resources”. But what words should we be using? When I use the word “resource planning” I cannot simply switch this to “people planning”. I don’t plan people and let plan their own work. I will gladly switch to other terms if the suggested terms are better and makes sense not only to the software development community but also to the customers and the developers themselves. When we create terms like scrum master and product backlog, we force our customers to use terms which they don’t understand and which does not make sense to them and for what good? It can also lead to so many misunderstandings. I’ve heard so many times how the word “sprint” has been interprated as what it means in sports. You exhaust yourself, which is not what I hope we want for our teams.

But I must take it upon myself to be less slack when I use the word resource and I can admit that that I’ve sometimes used that word when I should have said person or people. Not that I don’t like those words but rather due to corporate vocabulary. But here I’ll try to do better.

What do you think? Are you offended about the word Resource and if so: why? What should we use instead of the word resourc planning?

Thanks Dave for putting the spotlight on this.

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Categories: Agile, planning
  1. 2011/08/20 at 7:32 pm

    Hi Anna,

    Thanks for this post!

    How about “team planning” or “staffing strategy”? Once upon a time in the mid-1950’s my father worked for a very large insurance company in the “Personnel” division, but by the mid-80’s, that term was being replaced by “Human Resources”. In 1992 I started a contract with an HR systems group, and when I mentioned that my Dad had worked in Personnel I was scolded for using a dirty word!

    So, terms do change over time. That said, Agile is at its heart a human-facing group of processes. We strive all the time to leverage the skills and creativity of the people as opposed to blindly following a process.

    As such, when I’m working with teams and organizations as an Agile Coach I will correct the use of the term resource when it’s applied to people. It may sound silly to say “people planning”, but if that’s what you’re doing then why not call it that?

    Again, thank you!

    Dave…

    • Anna Forss
      2011/08/21 at 7:21 am

      well again, thanks for putting a spotlight on this. It is said that before WWII, the American military used the term “bodies” but where then to use the term “men” or “soldiers” instead just to point to the humanity of the guys.

      In scrum, we’ve at least previously used the story about hens and pigs to describe the difference between team members and stakeholders but I do feel that this does not give grounds to a good cooperation.

      When project managers talk about resource planning it can be so many things.

      We have what I occasionally do when I plan projects: I get funding from my company and my planning is rather how to use this money (external consultants or in house staff, buy products/functionality or develop ourselves) and is more product development planning. That is: how are we going to use the money we have to maximize through-put.

      Another, more traditional planning is probably the area which you want to discuss. The what project managers refer to as resource assigning or resource allocation. Here we do have the problem you refer to and here we can use people planning or “who works on which project planning”. We have big challenges here, where some responsible for these questions just see it as a puzzle, where all the hour should just fit in. I was some years ago while working on a project “assigned a resource” (as they put it) 2 hours a week. He just happened to have 2 hours “not assigned” and since I could not get the other guys full time, it was thought that we could just fill the gap with these 2 hours slots. I refused. Not that I didn’t like the guy but rather because I liked the guy. He did not deserve to work like that and the costs for the project would be huge.

      But what is also interesting when we talk about these issues is that we don’t even treat our people like resources, when it comes to the positive sense of that work when we have the situation which you describe. Resources are nurtured and repopulated. If we would have a resource planning,we would look after our people better than just seeing them as rows in a time matrix.

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