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People Are Not Resources

I spend a lot of time working with Executives and Senior Managers.  Generally, in my very first meetings I ask about the company’s Products vs Project focus.  We then quickly transition to review team structure and stability.  During this process, we dive into current leadership structure, how work is organized and assigned, which roles are present on each team, and how project status and risks are reported.

I am often struck by the use of the word ‘Resources‘ to define people. Resources describe something that can be purchased, such as: servers, computers, photocopy machines and office supplies

People are not resources.  

Teams are living, breathing organisms comprised of people with varying personalities.  Teams must be approached in unique ways to ensure growth and survival.  By defining a team (or individual contributor) as a resource we are saying that the same homogeneous approach can be applied in each case.

Finding resources is not difficult.  We look in a catalog, we choose a product and we place an order.  Several days later, that resource shows up at the door. Ask any manager who has hired a new employee and they will tell you that finding someone to join a team is never that easy.  Retaining qualified people is also not easy.

We have all seen the meme: “5 ways to find and retain good employees”

  1. Create an open and honest work environment.
  2. Provide opportunities to grow and learn, and let your employees know there is room for advancement in your company
  3. Recognize and reward good work
  4. Encourage Innovation and Growth
  5. Allow people to do the job you hired them to do

These five points enphasis valuable insight into how to engage employees.  When managers ask me about switching to Agile and making a transition towards Servant Leadership, I always tell them that the easiest way to make this shift is to remove the mentality that people are Resources. Begin to think of your teams as unique personalities and tailor your approach to them respectfully.


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