16 Oct, 2013
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Scrum, agile and lean are much used in professional work. More recently we have seen scrum and agile principles being applied outside of IT. In the past two decades especially within IT team. For instance, non-It scrum [NLS12], scrum in the church [Sut09], Scrum4Mom , Eduscrum , and Personal Kanban . Probably I forgot some more. The principles and concepts behind it are general enough to apply this also at home.
By writing this blog I want to inspire you to apply agile/lean principles at home too.


I had a week off during the holidays which is nice because the weather was going to be more than good. At home we do a pragmatic version of ‘Scrum4Mom’. At the start of the week (Monday) my wife left for a one week city trip and will return on Friday. The aim for the week was to exchange the interior of two rooms. One being the master bedroom and the other the study. To look after the kids I invited grand dad and mom over.
So, the deadline is set to 4 days from now.


Two important concepts in Scrum4Mom are the product owner and the (product) backlog. I follow Scrum4Mom in that my wife acts as the product owner. As a product owner she owns the backlog which in my case is:

  • wax the wooden floor
  • fix different colouring on the ceiling
  • switch the contents of the bedroom and study
  • remove the sand box from our garden
  • replace sand by gravel in front of the wooden window-frame (so that it is protected against moist)

The backlog is highly visible on the whiteboard in the kitchen.
Just before she left, she ordered the backlog and prioritised it is (I’ve also included the happiness factor, i.e. value):
1) 😃😃 switch the contents of the bedroom and study
2) 😃 remove the sand box from our garden
3) 😃 replace sand by gravel in front of the wooden window-frame (so that it is protected against moist)
4) 😃 wax the wooden floor
5) fix the different colouring on the ceiling
Switching the interior of the two rooms would make her extreme happy and items 2-4 she would welcome as a pleasant bonus.
As it turned out the roles were:

  • scrum master: me,
  • product owner: my wife,
  • team: me, grand dad and grand mom.

Story Map

All backlog items are pretty straightforward except for switching the interior of the two rooms.
The 2 rooms (bed room and study) have quite some functionality and I’m not quite sure how much time it will cost me to realise this. What I do not want to happen is that at the end of the week I have 2 messed up rooms and we have no place to sleep.
Since this backlog item is too complex I’m going to create a separate story map for this one [Pat05].
In order to decide when I’ve done enough moving around between the 2 rooms I need the goal or desired outcome of this item. Ah, this I know. The goal of switching the contents of the two rooms is that the bed is away from the street side in order to reduce the noise form the nearby playground so that we have a quieter night.
The columns (green post-its) show all the functions the 2 rooms have in our case: sleep, library, dressing, laundry, and hobby. The orange post-its indicate the slices and their intended outcome: sleep quietly, read books & not disturb, read books & use iPad in bed, a clean and neat sleeping room, and use the desktop & not disturb.
The yellow cards are the backlog items with estimation is story points (encircled numbers) and happiness (C = 😃😃 ; M = 😃 ; L = 😐).
The goals I want to achieve are represented by the orange cards. The (business) value is in the orange cards.
Most value of the first slice is in moving the bed to the other room (this is the main goal of switching the contents of the two rooms). In order to move the bed we have to make room for it and therefore have to move the book cases and drawer first although there is much less value in this.
Just like (professional) teams can struggle to have independent user stories I too was struggling with this. Especially the first slice where most of the happiness and value is in. The thing is that in order to be able to move the bed I need a free wall, but this is occupied with book shelfs which I have to move first. I’ll come back to this at the end of this blog.


I defined each sprint to be half a day, so 2 sprints per day. At the start of the day and at the start of the afternoon we had a 2 minute planning meeting where we decided what we wanted to achieve at the end of the half-day period.
What will be Done on Friday?
For keeping track of what will be done at the end of week I had a release burn down in the middle of the room.
Release Burn Down
This shows the progress halfway through Wednesday.
In the first sprint we didn’t make any progress (the horizontal line at the start): going to the airport and back again, create the story map and prepare for the first sprint. In the middle of the week was the only item we started but did not manage to finish in the sprint. It was completed in the sprint thereafter which was at the end of the day.


As with (software) teams we too made assumptions because the product owner was difficult to reach…..
Should I sleep on the right side or the left side? I cannot reach my wife but still want to go ahead and move the bed. Of all the items this is most valuable and I want to finish this as soon as possible. So…..a bit of thinking…..most probable for burglars is to enter via the balcony, i.e. right side. So I will sleep on that side.
I do the one thing I tell teams not to do: make assumptions without verifying them….
Moving the night table to the right side, mattresses to the right side. Done.
Done? After several hours I got the answer….should be the other way around. Never make assumptions as a team member…..I’ll create an additional user story for now and do it later….maybe.

Effectiveness vs Efficiency

On the first day we had moved the night table. Our experience with moving the night table including the 3 shelves of books was that it was not so easy to remember the order of the books on a shelve. For the night table this was not an issue.
But for the large book cases of my wife this was going to be an issue since she knew exactly what was stored where we had to retain the very exact order of the books and papers stashed on the shelves and between the books!
To reduce the risk of accidentally reordering the books and papers on a particular shelve we:
a) emptied the contents of already relocated book case (23 piles of books of 50 cm high),
b) moved the now empty book case to the place of where the new book case would go,
c) moved the contents of my wife’s book shelves one by one to the empty book case while keeping the exact ordering for this shelve and thereby avoiding piles of books and papers on the floor,
d) repeated steps b) and c) for the other 2 book cases,
e) finally, moved the last empty book case to the location left empty by step a),
f) put back the 23 piles on the floor into the book case.
Obviously, this was not efficient since we had to redo work we had already done, but it was very effective!

Demo or Die!

Finally: demo day!
That Friday I was going to pick up my wife at the airport around five-ish. After we got home I was anxious what she thought about the 2 rooms and all the work we completed.
We finished and showed the following:
1) 😃😃 switch the contents of the bedroom and study: partly done
2) 😃 remove the sand box from our garden: partly done
3) 😃 replace sand by gravel in front of the wooden window-frame (so that it is protected against moist): done
The following backlog items we did not finish:
4) 😃 wax the wooden floor: not started
5) fix the different colouring on the ceiling: not started


Just like scrum teams do, we also held a retrospective. What we liked about this approach was:

  • at the end of the day we completed all we things we started on, leaving functional rooms,
  • most value (moving the bed) we achieved half way through the week, the rest was a bonus and left us with no stress,
  • the planning at the start of each sprint made we kept a sustainable pace leaving room to play with the kids,
  • the PO was very happy with the result, despite that we did not 100% finish the switching of the rooms.

What we will do differently the next time:

  • no assumptions but text or phone the product owner before deciding what to do,
  • measure in more detail the space so that we would have found to move the bed first instead of first moving the book cases and drawer.


Agile principles can be applied at home. It helped me to get the most important thing done, namely moving the bed. As a bonus we also took up and completed other items. The story map may be an overkill but it did help me structure what needed to be done and decide when enough ‘moving furniture around’ was done and start processing other items on the backlog.
Keeping both rooms functional at all times and making sure that items when started are complete at the end of a half day helped to keep options open for what to do next.


Hold on… about the independence of the items in the first slice? Later I figured out how I could move the bed without having to move the book shelfs first at the expense of a little rework. What I could have done was move the bed to fit precisely between the 2 walls with book shelfs. Then move the book shelfs.
The benefit of this approach is, besides earning the large value first, to address technical risks with moving the bed. The bed had to be decomposed in its separate parts which was not trivial to do…..this we discovered half way through the week….luckily it worked but could also have been differently.


[Scrum4Mom]Scrum4Mom, Nicole Belilos, Xebia blog, April 2012, Scrum4Mom blog,
[EduScrum]EduScrum, Website,
[Pat05]It’s All in How You Slice, Jeff Patton, 2005, How you slice it
[Sut09]Scrum in Church, Rev. Arline Conan Sutherland, Jeff Sutherland, Ph.D., Christine Hegarty, Agile 2009, Scrum in church
[Ben11]Personal Kanban, Jim Benson, Tonianne DeMaria Barry,
[NLS12]NlScrum meetup, November 2012, nlscrum Meetup events 85124622

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