People vs. Resources

Human Resource Management may be the greatest misnomer in the history of all management activities.

This statement is not intended as a slight to the professionals who serve organizations by helping to acquire and keep talent, but it is a tacit recognition that we are all human. We are all part of the larger community and we all have basic needs and deserve to basic treatment as people.  We are not disposable, nor unfeeling. We all seek and need encouragement!

It is common now for many agilists to talk about the people not resources.

Recently a blog was printed here:

The Difference between Groups and Teams

By Jason Wick – March 1, 2018

Over the course of my career, I’ve contributed to teams across a variety of contexts. But not until the last year or two did I begin to understand what a team is and how this is distinctly different from a group. My realization was that most of the work I’d done had been as part of a group. The difference was not purely semantics; it was one of mission.

Currently I lead a cross-functional product team composed of several roles. Wherever personnel exist with multiple roles from different departments and management lines, there’s a risk of conflicting goals unintentionally working against each other.

There are several questions to explore here: What are the goals of the software engineers? What are the testers’ goals? Do these two lists present any unhealthy conflicts, or do they support a set of shared objectives?

As a simplified example, let’s say I primarily measure my testers’ value by tracking the number of defects they report. If that’s the case, I should be aware of the possibility that they may focus their energy on nitpicking in order to inflate their bug count rather than target their testing efforts with the customer experience in mind.

How does this relate to the differentiation between a group and a team? To first define them clearly in my own words, a group is a number of individuals working together to get something done, while a team is a set of people who share the same purpose. The team values its purpose above any specific goals related to roles.

If testers are logging a lot of defects to inflate their bug count and justify their value to their manager, we’re off base. If testers happen to log a lot of defects while serving a shared team goal of deploying defect-free software to its customers, we’re on the right track. But it also means the work of people in development and continuous integration must serve that same shared goal. In order to be a team, they all must approach their work with deploying defect-free software in mind.

Not every job to be done requires a team. There are plenty of times when a group does just fine. But I encourage you to take a hard look at your employees’ goals if what you’re aiming for sounds closer to the definition of team, where a set of individuals share their values and deliver with a unified purpose.


The authors recognition of the difference of belonging to a team vs. a group is somewhat a semantic difference, still important though.  As a group member I belong because of an attribute, rather than what I contribute.

Attribute:           Noun: a quality, character, or characteristic ascribed to someone or something has leadership attributes

Contribute:        Verb: to give (something, such as money, goods, or time) to help a person, group, cause, or organization — usually + to or toward

Think about that for a moment, as the member of a group, I cannot give my ‘male’ or ‘female’, my ‘tall’ or my ‘short’.  I can associate that attribute with that group. It requires no active relationship, it is emotionless and statistical.

Conversely, to contribute, I must actively participate.  In fact, I must ‘give’, which means be active and understand how I am providing benefit. 

When we see people as ‘resources’, we do not see them by their contributions, we see them by their attributions.  I am replacing this java developer with that java developer.  I am using this tester instead of that tester. The separation of will from action creates the notion of interchangeability and disassociation of cognitive actions, it takes away our humanity, our spirit, our drive and our passion.

Language is what gives us commonality.  Using it effectively to convey information is key to communication.  It also allows us to convey AND form emotions about the things we are discussing. When we remove the emotion of people by calling them resources it creates the false impression that we are all replaceable/interchangeable, but the reality is that we were all acquired because of our uniqueness, the skills we bring to the table, our passions and fears, our strengths and our weaknesses and our contributions are what make each of us special and integral to the teams we are part of, no matter what our group memberships may be.