Today I chatted with yet another person who works for a company that is moving to resource pools:

Technical people fill out an inventory of their technical skills and become part of a “resource pool,” made up of all the people in the organization who are not currently assigned to a project.

When a new project starts up, the administrators of the pool assess the skills profile for the project and then look for matches (well, near matches) among the resources currently in the pool.

Resource pools are appealing because they sound so logical and efficient:

  • Resources across the enterprise are fully utilized because with a resource pool, it’s possible to match a C# resource in Cleveland up with a project in Portland. No one sits around waiting without appropriate work to do.
  • Resource pools are efficient because they eliminate prolonged, expensive and (sometimes) error prone hiring processes.

    The only problem is it doesn’t work.

    Nope, it doesn’t.

    Resource pooling assumes that people are the sum of their technical skills.

    Resource pooling ignores the mix of interpersonal skills and qualities that make up a functioning team.

    Resource pooling ignores the overhead of forming a well-functioning team. You can through a group together in 10 minutes, but building a team that can work productively together takes time and attention.

    Resource pooling seems to forget that geographic proximity (or lack there of) does matter. It’s not impossible to have a high-functioning team that works well, but it takes thought and effort. It’s foolish to assume that the apparent cost savings will be greater than the overhead costs that come with low-bandwidth communication, time zone differences, cultural differences, and so forth.

    I wonder how enthusiastic the executives who come up with these ideas would be if their staff was part of the resource pool. At the end of every quarter, the management team can be put into the pool and re-assigned to the next open management job. Then the executive can draw up a skills profile for his team and go fish!