In all our organizations, we have a wonderful department or function called Human Resources. Over the years, the Human Resources department has evolved, and they take a great care of all their resources -- i.e, the employees. Their interaction with resources start and end with an interview -- the job interview and the exit interview, I mean.
After getting introduced to Agile, and while working for the last five years on Agile projects, I have developed a strong and disturbed feeling toward the word "resources." Let me tell you up front and frankly that I am not against the Human Resources department. But the word "resource" troubles me a lot.
Image courtesy of Microsoft Office PowerPoint template from Microsoft
Definition of resource
From Wikipedia: "A resource is a source or supply from which benefit is produced. Typically resources are materials, services, staff, or other assets that are transformed to produce benefit and in the process may be consumed or made unavailable."
From Dictionary.com: "Source of supply, support, or aid, especially one that can be readily drawn upon when needed."
Management theories speak about the four resources, or 4M's: Manpower, Money, Machines, and Materials.
From the Agile Manifesto
Let me begin by stating two beautiful value statements from the Agile Manifesto:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
The beauty of Agile and Scrum lies in the core fact that individuals
are valued more than processes and tools. These individuals should never be treated as "resources." They are assets of the organization. They collaborate and deliver product increment, iteration after iteration, to the customer.
Scrum brings a lot of joy and fun to the team. The team breaks away from the traditional resource mode of thinking -- "I am assigned this work and I have to complete it" and " I work in the organization to do these tasks." The team develops a feeling of belonging. They get the platform to perform without someone (the traditional PM) controlling their work. They become more creative, as it is they who decide what to work on -- work is not assigned to them at someone else's will. They build trust among themselves by honestly telling each other what they did yesterday, what they will be doing today, and what is worrying them -- every day in their daily stand-ups. They have the freedom to discuss backlog prioritization openly with the product owner and get the bigger picture easily.
Welcome, Human Assets Management
It's high time, then, that we abandon the term "Human Resources Management." It's the need of the hour to call it "Human Assets Management." Humans are assets to the organization. They bring their knowledge, value, and experience to the organization in pursuit of a common goal. They grow along with the organization, as the value of an asset grows over time. They bring wealth in terms of expertise to the organization, from which the organization can benefit. They add capabilities to the organization, enabling it to acquire more wealth.
Bench versus nonperforming assets
Organizations often use the word "bench" for a resource who is nonbillable, not on any project. This word has a great negative effect on the individual. They are easily recognizable in the organization, as most organizations have dedicated spaces for the bench resources. They live and work in an atmosphere of insecurity. This makes them vulnerable to many things -- for example, they may try to steal organizational process assets such as design documents, code, software, etc., so they can use these in their next job. The fear of insecurity spreads to other team members as well.
I would suggest calling these nonbillable assets "Nonperforming Assets (NPA)." NPAs are used extensively in the banking and finance industry. We all know you become an NPA once there is a default on a loan payment. Financial organizations have different policies for handling these NPAs. The term "NPA" is better and more positive than the word "bench."
Employee + employer = mutual fund
Employee and employer relationships are just like a mutual fund. Both the parties agree and invest their time, money, and efforts toward a common goal. If the value of the asset increases, so does the benefit from the mutual fund returns. Employers should treat their employees as the assets on which some investments are made (office space, trainings, and salaries). Employers should nurture these assets so they grow bigger and bigger. After all, it's the organization that reaps the benefits from the growth of its assets.
We already have assets in our organization. The IT department has extensive asset management capabilities. All the hardware and software assets are tagged, managed, and monitored. What is the use of IT assets if we don't have human assets to operate them? If you are able to call machines assets, why not call humans assets as well?
Come and join me in the revolution. Let's realize the importance of the most important assets of a Scrum team -- the human assets, not the human resources.