IT People Mind Your Language!

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Whether you’re using agile development methods or any other methodology, language is important.

And I don’t mean whether you’re speaking English or another foreign language.    I mean the words people choose to use in the office.

There are two examples of this that I find particularly irritating…

The first is how people in IT refer to themselves as ‘resources’.   I know that strictly speaking people are resources, but it sounds like they are commodities, and in my experience they certainly are not.   If we really value people, and it’s not just lip service, we would not think of people, our most valuable assets, simply as resources.

I think traditional project management methods are guilty of making this phrase normal in IT.   But I don’t think it helps that most companies have a department called HR.  Coincidentally, Jean Tabaka at Rally has just blogged about this issue and what they should call their HR Director vacancy.

And it’s just as bad the way IT people refer to others in the same company as ‘the business’.   It’s a strange phenomena, as though IT people see themselves as external to the company they’re working for, which might actually help to explain why so many IT departments are treated like external suppliers – something that I personally think is a very unhealthy way for internal relationships to be.

Referring to IT people as ‘resources’ and our colleagues as ‘the business’ fosters an us and them culture – something that can result in resentment, and all sorts of bad behaviours that can make a place an unpleasant and uncooperative place to work.  And I think IT people are the worst culprits.   These phrases have come from IT, and personally I think have subtle but very negative consequences.

So the question is, are these phrases now so deeply embedded in the IT vocabulary that they can’t be changed? Or can we change it…