The Resource Constraint Conundrum

It’s the most over used term in the office.

“We have resource constraints.”

“We can’t do that project due to resource constraints.”

“We missed the time line due to resource constraints.”

The rationale behind this line of thinking is that there isn’t enough people. If we just had more people then we could do all the projects and hit all the time lines. We don’t have enough programmers. We don’t have enough architects. We don’t have enough testers. I think the excuse is just too convenient. In a way, it’s lazy.

Here’s why.

Organizations can’t employ an unlimited number of people. Even if the organization hired more programmers, it would only shift the bottleneck to another group. Think about that. If you hired three more programmers then the programmers would ultimately sit with no input because the existing business analysts couldn’t feed them work fast enough. Or the programmers output would increase so much that the QA testers would not be able to keep up with it. There has to be a slowest step. So this is an apparent conundrum. If only we could do more with less by working smarter.

A better way to think.

I find that this conversation parallels budget and financial processes. There is a finite amount of money in the budget, home or work. Is that a budget constraint? If we answer yes, then we have a mindset that there shouldn’t be limits. We should just be able to spend money whenever we want no matter the cost. The reality is that we have a set amount of money and we establish a budget as a guideline for how to spend it. The budget is what we choose to do with our money.

It's really about how we allocate what we have

It’s really about how we allocate what we have

I use that rationale for the home budget. We have X dollars each month. We choose how we will spend those X dollars. The budget isn’t a constraint. It’s a guide and a plan.

The same principle applies to people in the office. We have a set number of people on staff and a book of work to process. How we choose to allocate people to that work is our choice. It isn’t easy and requires tough decisions. But it’s a choice.

The conversation changer.

So the conversation changes from resource constraints to resource allocations. We should be talking in terms of customer retention, ROI, revenue, etc. The allocation of staff is a choice based on a plan. That’s a better conversation to have with everyone. Instead of complaints we talk about acknowledging current state and making choices.

Hiring more people or buying more equipment is always possible if the allocation of funds support it. Businesses are drawn to ROI. If the business case supports it and those in charge of managing the money believe the risk is worth taking, then the funds will be allocated. Businesses exist to make a return.

When it’s all said and done we work within the boundaries of what we have. That includes people, money, tools, equipment, and knowledge. Is that boundary a constraint? I sure hope not. I like to get stuff done!