Agile IRL: Scrumming a Move
Applying some pragmatic Scrum for a big personal project like moving.
In this series of Agile In Real Life (IRL) I write about how Agile can be or is applied in non-software development practices. I reflect on things that I come across or write about my own experiences, explaining some of the Agile practices with Real Life examples.
In the summer of 2018 I traded in my roommate for a female version, my girlfriend. And to make it a clean trade, they were swapping apartments! This meant that in one weekend we were actually moving two people into two apartments. Something that could be super-efficient, if managed properly. And a good Product Manager as I was, I thought of scrumming it. Did it help? I definitely think so, and in this article I reflect on why.
Project Big Move.
Moving in/out most of the time highlights a new chapter in your life. Whether it is buying your first apartment, starting a new life in a different city, or moving in with your significant other. It would be a great memory, would it not be for the damn moving itself.
Moving is often a big, complex (and painful) project.
- There are so many things you need to do: packing, cleaning, transporting, painting, unpacking, etc. etc. And it is not that you can do all these activities in random order.
- You also have to deal with external parties. For example for the delivery of your new couch, which you planned weeks if not months ago.
- Since moving is so painful you want as much help as possible. Opening a big can of friends to share this moment with, meaning quite some people are involved.
- Often there are setbacks as well. Only when moving do you discover that you are secretly a big hoarder and that you have to move more stuff than you thought. Or when you arrive at the elevator and you realize that your couch does not really fit.
If you look at all these points, do you really think it is overkill to apply some project management? I definitely don't think so.
No, I did not create User Stories, there were no Estimation Sessions with my family, and we did not do a Retrospective about how we could do the next move even better. But I did use an improvised Scrumboard (an empty white wall and some stickies) to keep track of all our progress. And I did give the (Sprint)planning quite some thought.
Basically what I did was writing down all the different activities that needed to be done. I prioritized these to-do's based on dependencies, uncertainty and amount of work. With this prioritized list I planned it over the two days, making the scope and goals of each day very clear.
Scrum is a great way of applying some common sense planning to real life projects, like a move.
To give a couple of examples:
- The first activity was to move all the stuff of my girlfriend out of her old place, opening up the space to make her apartment ready for my old roommate to move in.
- I planned some demolishing work in the morning, since it was uncertain how much time it would take, and we only had that day to bring it to the dumping ground.
- The more relaxed tasks, like painting and unpacking, were planned for the end of both days.
No rocket science right? Just common sense. But a lot of lessons learned from Scrum is common sense.
How it helped.
First of all, this little exercise of properly planning helped to structure all the activities. What do we need to do first, and how can we make things efficient? With such an ambitious timeframe you don't want to be blocked along the way. It is also really a good practice to plan uncertain things first. Setbacks always suck, but you better have them at the start of the day. This helped a lot in reducing stress.
Talking about reducing stress. The Scrumboard really helped to keep track of things, it gave good oversight and a sense things were progressing. You feel like you are in control. It also made it clear to everybody where they could help out or what they could pick up next. With a lot of people helping out it made the coordination easy and it made sure we could keep a good pace (or should I say velocity).
This really easy way of applying some Scrum/Agile lessons to a project like moving is definitely something I could recommend. It was really not that of a stressful weekend, although we needed to do a lot and a lot of stuff. And the structure that came with applying some Scrum principles definitely helped.
So next time you take on a real-life "project", just take some time to think what Scrum can bring you to make it a success.
If you found this an interesting read, have a look at some of my other articles: