Project Management

Why to use the word capacity instead of resource when referring to people

From the Manifesting Business Agility Blog
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There are many in the Agile community that believe referring to people as resources’ is insulting. I know many people in non-Agile communities that don’t mean to be demeaning when they refer to people as resources. To be safe, I typically never call people resources.

But there’s another reason not to call people resources’. When you have “resources” it makes sense to utilize them, even over utilize them. This is the wrong focus for Flow and Lean.  We are not trying to utilize things as over utilization causes many problems.

We are trying to use whatever capacity we have on the most important tasks.  So instead of resources, I do more than just calling people 'people'. I always talk about capacity. This not only will not be interpreted negatively, it reminds us that people have a certain level of capacity.  We can more easily understand that overloading capacity is bad than we can understand that over utilization is bad.

Posted on: December 03, 2019 12:17 PM | Permalink

Comments (10)

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This is spot on, Al, and why I have a sticker on my laptop which says "If you mean PEOPLE, say "People" (Not "Resources") - Let's make people awesome!"


I use "team members" or talent.

Need to reinforce the alternatives .....All too often we are stuck on the common term "Resources".

If you use "Capacity" when referring to People then what term are you going to use to refer to the real capacity of people when participating in executing project tasks? It is very confused!

actually, i guess i'm saying talk about the capacity you have and not the people. let me see if i can rewrite it.
When i talk about getting things done i typically just talk about the capacity I have. it seems to work well.

Thanks for giving us this interesting approach!....I agree with you

Agree with the overall sentiment. There is a negative connotation with the term resources. There are different options to take when speaking of the individuals, whether from a talent or capacity perspective.

Dear Al
I am one of those people who believe referring to people as resources is insulting.
I prefer to call Talent, or Knowledge Workers or People

Everyone is different and the pace and dexterity with which they perform as their activities varies from person to person.

I can agree with one perspective:
The ability to perform a certain amount of work is limited.

I am not surprised. I guess I don't get insulted because I think there should be intent to be insulted. This alone is a reason to not use the word resources - people often do not understand intent.

But the other point is we don't want anyone to think of talent, people whatever as things to be utilized - no matter what we call them. :)

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