Of subjects and citizens, resources and people

A couple of months back, the day before Independence Day, an interesting article appeared in the Washington Post.  The author of the article notes that while many words were crossed out in the draft, only one word was obliterated. There had long been speculation about the smear around the word “citizen”. Using spectral imaging technology developed for the military and for monitoring agriculture, research scientists were able to reconstruct what was written on the document, and the results are far more dramatic than scholarly speculation had suspected.

According to the author scholars of the revolution had speculated that the word “citizens” had been used to replace another term such as “patriots” or “residents”. The spectral imaging instead revealed that the word Jefferson had originally drafted and then obliterated was the word “subjects”. Considering that other words in the draft were marked through, and only this particular word was removed, it is easy to imagine that there was an impassioned reaction to the word.

As soon as I read this article I was struck by the similarity of another word that is in common use in our industry that likewise deserves to be obliterated from our documents and emails. That word is “resource”. People are not simple objects that can be used and discarded, they are complex, emotional, and ever changing. Consistent with my tested belief in the benefits of agile principles and practices, I have recognized that in every successful project I have participated in it is the people that make the difference. Process and tools may augment the capabilities of an already good team, and make them superior, but no amount of process or tooling will ever take a poor team and make them good. Recognizing and embracing this fundamental concept the first step forward in starting to build a great team.

Are you ready to obliterate this word from your documents and emails, and to recognize the true value that people bring to your organization?

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Vernon Stinebaker

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