People over resources

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

August 12, 2019 · 4 mins read

Resources

I’ve had a problem with a few words the IT industry chooses to use for a while now. Legacy is one of them. The other one is resource. This is that post. The one I’ve been putting off writing.

Nathan Jones shared my article about the word legacy on LinkedIn at the time with the following comment.

“Nice reminder from Peter Boni about the language we use in IT. These ‘heritage’ systems exist, because they have kept the business, in business. I personally look forward to the post on resources.”

Sam Newman’s tweet gave me the motivation to write the article, but I’ve really had much more of a problem with the word resource than legacy. At the time I left a somewhat jovial, but mostly sarcastic reply on Nathan’s share of my article. It captures my frustration with peoples continued use of the word resource in any context when referring to people.

“I need to raise an ‘article writer’ resource request and get it through prioritisation first. I may not even be the resource allocated to write it 🤔”

Why It’s Important

I’m not going to show you definitions of the word resource, or talk about its history. I’m not going to intellectualise it, because my problem with the word resource is emotional.

When people use the word resource, resources, or resourcing, they are anonymising, de-identifying, or generalising people, and hence each person.

They are not thinking about a person. They are not thinking about a person’s current skills - soft or technical, or their experience. They are not thinking about a person’s personal or professional development plan.

They are not thinking about building high performing teams of people. They are not thinking about the culture of an organisation of people.

Think for a moment how you would feel if you heard a senior leader refer to you as an ‘x resource’, and that ‘we need two more x resources on project y’.

Given that I’ve heard the term mostly from people with project management experience, maybe there’s something in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development about resources?

Agile Manifesto

Do you know the first value (of four) of the Agile Manifesto?

“Resources and interactions over processes and tools” - Manifesto for Agile Software Development

How stupid does that look and sound? Back in our universe, the first value actually says.

“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” - Manifesto for Agile Software Development

The Agile Manifesto says individuals and their interactions, not resources and their interactions - that’s where you should read Sam Newman’s book on Microservices and how they should interact. A service is a resource. A person is not a resource.

Prime Value

I’m proposing a prime value. That means it’s “of first importance; main”. It’s really simple.

People over resources”

And then remember this.

“That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”

Always think about people first, before you think about resources. You will change the words you choose to use when referring to people, and influence other people’s thoughts and actions.