Scrum isn’t anything new to my family of five. We have been using Scrum to manage our household for a few years now. It’s worked well for the day-to-day kind of stuff—washing dishes, taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn.
But then everything changed…
It was January in Minnesota. We had just faced the seventh consecutive day of sub-zero temperatures. I made the mistake of putting Antarctica and the North Pole on my weather app and Minnesota temps remained consistently colder than the supposedly coldest places on Earth!
Every winter I get in the “Why the hell do I live here?” mode. But this time it was different.
I had recently lost my father at a relatively young age and it made me realize that life is short. I can be the kind of person that complains, or I can do something about the situation.
Fast forward to March and we were on a mission to find a new home in Raleigh, North Carolina, a city that neither of us had ever been to before. We took three days to house hunt and ended up signing on the dotted line. It was by far the most spontaneous thing I have ever done in my adult life!
When we returned home it hit us that this was a really big project with a very tight timeline! In the coming weeks we felt overwhelmed with the insurmountable amount of work ahead!
It was Saturday morning and I was frantically sweeping the floor. My husband said, “I need you to stop what you’re doing. We’re starting one-week sprints and we need to do our first sprint planning.
“I can’t stop working now, I’m right in the middle of something,” I snapped back.
“Isn’t that what the developers on your teams tell you?” he replied. “And isn’t it your job to coach them to have an efficient process?”
Oh crap, I thought. I have no rebuttal for this one. He got me.
I reluctantly stopped what I was doing to look at the backlog my husband had put together on Trello. I paused for a moment and realized that it made a lot of sense. We were constantly fighting about the scarcity of time and felt like we had an insurmountable task ahead of us. Seeing it all in a backlog made the work feel manageable, even attainable.
We worked together to prioritize the backlog. Certain items had to come first. We had to get the house painted before we could list it. We had a target date of May 1 to list the house–our first major milestone in this project.
Some of the backlog items the kids could help with, so we tried to identify those to lighten our load. Other things, such as selling items we didn’t want to move could wait—they weren’t a showstopper for getting the house listed.
We organized our project using one-week sprints. We really used more of a Scrum-ban approach though, focusing on our work in progress (WIP) limits. When I saw that my husband had a lot of tasks, I would see which ones I could help with. Work that we knew wasn’t deadline imperative would go in the backlog.
Suddenly, every sprint we were completing a ton of tasks! This transparency into the work helped us manage the stress better as a couple by realizing we were both working hard and contributing.
The Trello board also gave us a sense of accomplishment. Even though the backlog would continue to grow, we realized how much work we were really getting done. And the best part—we were working on the most important items first. Some of the items we thought were important didn’t have a lot of urgency, so we deleted them.
“Even though the backlog would continue to grow, we realized how much work we were really getting done. And the best part—we were working on the most important items first.”
I can’t say that Scrumming our move made it any less work or any less stressful. What I can say, though is it helped build team work with the family, it gave us a sense of accomplishment and we knew we were always working on the most important things first.
It’s been almost a month since we moved, and we continue to manage our lives this way! We discovered that even though the big “project” was over, life still continued with too many tasks and not enough time. By managing our home life with an agile mindset and some tools from Scrum (and Kanban) we feel a little less frazzled.