Get Agile!

It’s that time of year again when everyone creates their countdown list and shares their New Year’s resolutions. One of the more popular New Year’s resolutions is to be more productive.  You will hear people say things like, “I want to get more organized, I want to get more things done in a day, etc.”  So if you, like many others, want to be more productive in 2016 I encourage you to finish reading this post. By doing so, you will discover how my wife and I got more done during the renovation of our house by “getting agile”.

I have held many titles in my day, most of them focused around utilizing, implementing, and developing While working with technology, I was introduced to agile methodology.  In a future post, I will go into more detail about agile but for now I would like to provide an outside example so you can see how agile can be applied to a lot more than just managing software projects.

In 2013, my wife and I bought a 1940 two-story home that had never been updated.  We bought the house with the intention of remodeling it to make it our own.  We renovated our last house but this one was a much larger project. This time we also had a new addition to the family, our first child! We quickly realized we were in over our heads, taking on the roles of general contractor, project manager, laborer, etc.

For the first two months nothing got done other than meeting with contractors to discuss opening some walls, building a garage, and replacing windows.  We constantly asked each other, “What do you want to work on?” We were both defeated until I suggested we try something we use at work that helps our team stay focused on our projects and goals… Agile!  I changed some of the terminology that was more specific to agile like backlog, stories, sprint planning, etc. and replaced it with buckets, tasks, and sit downs in order to make it easier to explain to others without getting into an entire agile lesson.

Here is how we got started:

  1. Created three giant poster boards for our wall, labeled “Backlog (To Do)”, “In Process”, and “Completed”.
  2. Purchased post it notes for assigning tasks needing to be completed. Color coded: Pink for projects my wife would work on by herself, green for projects to be completed by me and yellow for projects that would require both of us.
  3. A task could only be described as something we could complete within a week’s time.
  4. Any time something needed to be done, or we started a task, there had to be a post it note in order for us to work on it.
  5. Once we started working on a task/post it was moved onto the “In Process” board and once it was completed it was moved onto the “Completed” board. (Example of our agile process pictured below.)
  6. At the beginning of each week, we sat down to review what was still in process or any new tasks we added to the “Backlog (To Do)” board in order to prioritize and discuss what we would work on during the upcoming week.

After we applied this process, we quickly gained sanity and saw momentum.  Instead of scratching our heads on what to start on, we saw tasks getting moved from “To Do” to “Completed”.  We were able to see steps like purchase paint supplies, prime the living room, instead of paint the whole house or tile the entire bathroom. By segmenting the work into smaller chunks we could get projects done within one week or less. We were finally making progress instead of feeling overwhelmed.

This is not a perfect example of agile methodology, but I will say it is an adaptation that I created from working on an agile team. So if you are thinking about your New Year’s resolution and want to have a more successful year, I recommend adapting agile as a way of tackling your projects at work or at home.


Stay tuned for more about agile methodology in my future posts!

Written by Ryan Orr, CRM Analyst at Demand Chain Systems

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