People often associate resource planning with cold numbers or hard skills, and speak in terms of "FTEs," "resources," and "head count." For a high performing, motivated team, it's crucial to remember that it's human beings we're dealing with. Unlike machine parts, human beings have good days and bad days and family issues and working styles, and all sorts of things that can impact their work, for better or worse. As one of the key founding fathers of Agile, Alistair Cockburn, once shared with me, "People are not suitcases, to be moved around at will."
Indeed, optimizing resources means creating an environment where people can do their best work. A pioneer in the positive psychology movement, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, created the concept of Flow, where people are so immersed in what they're doing that time seems to stand still. To enable that optimal state, they must be doing work that both has an appropriate level of challenge and is an appropriate match for their skills/strengths. Too little challenge creates apathy. A skills mismatch creates frustration. Either will reduce interest and productivity.
Of course, for Flow to happen in the first place, the environment must be suitable for it.
A big part of enabling people to do their best means not overloading them with multitasking or forcing them to work out of their comfort zones. This is best addressed through resource planning (for lack of a more suitable term), which involves ensuring that incoming pipeline projects are prioritized and the availability of people with suitable skills is assessed. There are multiple approaches for addressing any shortfall, including delaying or altering the incoming work, securing outside or additional resources, or shifting priorities.
Management guru Ken Blanchard said, "Profit is the applause you get for creating a motivating environment for your people and taking care of your customers." With this in mind, you can become an absolute superhero to your organization, and the people in it, by introducing and/or improving a resource planning process that will enable optimal performance.
Speaking of superheroes, I was especially saddened to hear of the recent passing of Marvel legend Stan Lee. I grew up reading his stories and had the good fortune to meet him at a comic con a few years back, where I happened to be speaking on the art of storytelling (side note: I write sci-fi in my other life). He was a gracious man with a knack for telling captivating tales. A consistent theme he'd always preached through his characters was that doing the right thing was heroic, and that superheroes can come in all shapes and sizes.
It does not seem a stretch to extrapolate from that a valuable lesson that introducing resource planning is simply the right thing to do. It's right for the people, right for creating value, and right for the top and bottom line. The other choice is to continue business as usual, burning people out while projects get delayed, errors increase, and customers get irate. The question then, is: Can you afford NOT to do resource planning?
I know which option Stan Lee and Ken Blanchard would choose.