Do You Treat Your Project Team Members As Commodities?

September 30, 2011 by  Filed under: Management 

“Resources” – that is what we sometimes call members on our team. “Resources” has become a part of our vocabulary as Project Managers. “How many Resources do we have for this project?”, “Running behind? No problem, all we need to do is add more Resources” or, “We didn’t have enough Resources to get it done.”

Do we feel that our team members fall into the category of just being a Resource? Or, worse yet, do we take it a step further and view them perhaps as commodities, like gas or oil? The definition of a resource is not so bad unto itself. A Resource is defined as “a source of supply, support, or aid, especially one that can readily be drawn upon when needed”. However, the definition of a Commodity is “an article of trade or commerce, especially a product as distinguished from a service”. Definitely a different way of viewing the people you work with on your team.

We may find ourselves getting into trouble when we begin viewing our resources as commodities. This is a slippery slope that causes the following problems:

  1. No Room for Loyalty – If we view our team members as commodities, our relationships become very transactional in nature. We find ourselves not concerned with what is going on with them as people, but rather, only what we can get out of them as resources. While that may be good in the short-term for getting things done on your project, just be prepared for higher turnover rates in the long-term.
  2. We Won’t see Beneath the Surface – If we view our resources and our team members as commodities, we view them as serving only one function and only one purpose. They may have other skills that unfortunately we are not aware of or are utilizing for our projects. Not digging deeper into their other skills and talents may cause us to lose out on a bigger contribution by these team members.
  3. It creates divisions. People that are grouped into a certain class, or “commoditized” can feel out of the loop, not involved, and as disconnected from the project. We certainly don’t want that to happen as it would hinder productivity.

While it may be OK to view our team members as resources (someone that we can call upon for aid and support to get our projects done), be careful to not slip into that treacherous path of treating team members as commodities!

Jennifer Whitt, PMP, CPC, President
Jennifer Whitt is a speaker, trainer, Certified Performance Coach, author, and company president of She is a PMI-certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and knows how difficult it can be to make time for classroom or online learning so she has developed a new way for Project Managers to Earn n’ Learn while on the go. For more information, please visit

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