Practical Scrum: Using Scrum Outside of the Office
Scrum is a framework, or a basic structure of ideas, that help people solve complex problems and deliver quality products faster. In general, when we think of Scrum, it’s tied to software development or the business world. When I began my Scrum journey, it was all a very foreign concept to me, as I was coming from a background of working in the music industry. I felt very lucky to have an opportunity to learn and practice Scrum with some of the best leaders the Agile community has to offer, but even then, it was a little overwhelming. The terminology was a bit “silly” and the concept was complex, but if I was going to learn Scrum, I figured a company that trains the Agile community was the best place to learn. And so, I dove head first into Scrum, soaking up any and all information I could find. Not knowing where to begin, I started to study all of the Scrum terms.
Scrum Master. Product Owner. Developers. Sprint backlog, goal, retro, and review.
The Scrum Master helps keep a team on track and helps bust any impediments they may be facing. A Scrum Master should be good at tracking data and metrics. They should be familiar with the work that is being done and take on more of a coaching role than an authoritative one.
Although the scrum team is empowered to do their work, the Product Owner decides if it is up to standard to release. They are responsible for prioritizing the backlog, receiving and relaying information from stakeholders to the team, and maximizing the value of the work delivered.
The Developers are the ones who are usually responsible for doing the work, although you can have a working SM and PO on any Scrum Team (but a dedicated SM and PO is ideal). The specific skills the Devs might have are broad and will vary from team to team.
With all this in mind, I began to really understand the Scrum methodology, and with this understanding, I began to wonder how I could apply this to my life outside of the office. Why not? It was structured in a way that no one person is responsible for everything that needs to be done, and being a single mom, this sounded like a dream come true! So I had to give it a try.
Implementing Scrum outside of the office
When I first began using Scrum outside of the office, I had to adapt the methodology to a much smaller scale and I had to simplify the process. I didn’t want to lose the structure though, because that is one of the things I loved so much about it. I had to identify the roles of my team, but since my children are young, I wanted to try this out with other adults before I tried to implement it at home.
Scrum begins with identifying your team. Ideally, these roles are not taken by the same person, but when using Scrum outside of work, you may be responsible for more than one. Sometimes, you’re a team of one. Others times, it will be you & a partner or your children, or you might bring in some outside help. Every household will look different, so just do what works for you, keep the team small, and make sure everyone is on board!
Create a User Story or Goal
This was a necessary step for me, because I wanted to make sure I was getting the most out of this experiment and I wanted to use as much of the Scrum method as possible. I’ve always been a goal oriented person, so having my goal written out for me and my team was a must. How will everyone know what direction to go if they didn’t understand why they’re going there?
“As a.. I want to.. so that..”
So for this experiment, my user story looked like this:
“As a mom of 2 young kids, I want to pack and move all of our belongings to our new house in 3 days, so that I can make the most of the help I have, while the children are staying with their grandparents”
Create a Backlog
Once your goal has been set, begin to make a list of things that need to get done and make sure it is as comprehensive as possible to complete your goal. This can look very daunting at first, but part of the Scrum process requires breaking bigger tasks into smaller more manageable ones. Once you have a comprehensive list, begin to break those tasks down. For instance, when moving, I needed to pack everything in boxes, clear the house and load the trucks to carry everything to the new location, unload everything at the new location, and then unpack everything.
Plan your Sprint
In Scrum, your Sprint can run anywhere from 1 week – 4 weeks. Our team works in 1 week Sprints, but when doing this outside of work, your Sprint could be for a day, weekend, or week. Working in smaller Sprints is usually recommended so that you can get more frequent feedback. Once your backlog has been created, plan your Sprint by prioritizing your tasks by importance.
I like to create a Kanban board on my mirror, using 3 columns of Do | Doing | Done, with dry erase markers and sticky notes. Having it in a central location and visible for everyone is key to reaching your Sprint goal.
The Daily Scrum is a time when the Scrum Team comes together and decides what they will be doing for that day and when any impediments can be brought to the Scrum Masters attention so they can help mitigate them. If you’re working as a team of one, you wont be making a formal meeting with yourself, so just look over your plans and construct a strategy for the day.
After your Sprint is over, have a conversation with your team and listen to their concerns and celebrate any wins. Check and make sure that everything that the team committed to during the Sprint was completed and if something wasn’t, find out why that was. This information will help your team with their retrospective, which is where the team evaluates what could have been done better in the sprint and how they can improve for future sprints. After this you should be ready to set up your next sprint.
For this experiment, I worked with 4 adults who had no idea what Scrum was and were willing to go along with my plan. I assigned roles and responsibilities and explained to each person what their job would be. At the end of our Sprint, the consensus was that while it was a little confusing at first, using Scrum for my move was efficient and made the entire process run smoothly. Everyone was impressed by how quickly we got the job done. Although we used Scrum loosely, keeping the structure of it gave everyone a good idea of the method and gave me more ideas of how to implement Scrum in my everyday with my kids.
Have you used Scrum outside of the office and want to tell us your story? Email us at email@example.com and your story could be featured in future blog posts like this one!
This is great! I use Scrum outside the office a lot with my family!
It makes running a household so much easier!!
Wow, excellent; Thanks so much!
One of the key benefits of the Scrum backlog is to keep ideas in front of us. The discipline of reviewing the backlog on a regular basis helps us keep track of ideas and maintain long-term work. As I developed my own work practices, I incorporated many of the ideas that are presented in Product Owner training. Also, keeping an eye on the value of various tasks has made the priority meaningful.
This is some great insight, Larry! Thank you for your input.