How the Agile Scrum Framework Helped Me Manage My Yard Work

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Ryan Kilimnik
I use my years of visual communication and design thinking to understand the user and their pain points to deliver the best user experience.
It was Monday morning and while heading to work those familiar feelings of frustration began to rise: How was I ever going to get my yard work done?! At the end of every weekend I discovered that I spent more time trying to decide what to work on than actually working. How was I ever going to get to re-landscaping the front yard, prepping my vegetable garden for fall and maintaining the back yard so that the kids and pets could play? At the peak of my frustrations I discovered the Agile Scrum Framework.

Recently, buzzwords like Scrum and Agile were being tossed around the office. After educating myself by watching tutorials and reading, I immediately thought of my yard and how I could use the Agile Scrum Framework to accomplish my work!

Agile is a concept for software development cycle defined in the 80s by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka. Scrum is one way to adopt Agile that allows developers to be more flexible in reaching attainable goals. It breaks down like this: A team of cross discipline producers get together with a Project Owner and Scrum Master (a Scrum Master makes sure things stay on track but doesn't do any actual work) and decide what can be completed in a sprint (interval of time). Before sprinting user stories are used to define what needs to be done. Those user stories are broken down into tasks that can be accomplished during the sprint. These are backlog items. For more info on Scrum check out this great video series by Michael James.

This could be a direct solution to me solving all my yard work by helping me define tasks at hand, time boxing them to achievable amounts and allowing me to be flexible to adjust to new priorities. The biggest challenge will be that I need to represent all roles of the Scrum process. That makes me the Scrum team, Product Owner and Scrum Master for three different teams; Front Yard, Back Yard, and Garden. The stake holders that I need to be concerned with are my wife, my sons and pets (dog and cat). I'll concentrate on the following processes for my yard work; Backlog Refinement, Sprint Planning Meeting, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review Meeting and Retrospective Meeting.

My adaptation is obviously not a perfect match but based on resourcing it is the best I can do. As the sole member for the team, I will be responsible for all weed pulling, lawn mowing and ditch digging that is needed. On occasion I might find additional outside resources to join the team in the form of my younger brothers. My role as Project Owner will be to understand the project and help to define the importance and priority of the backlog. The Scrum Master role for me is really more a state of common sense in recognizing blockers, understanding the difficulty of tasks at hand and determining when they are complete. The stakeholders will help to review the completed sprints and provide feedback.

My sprints are represented by the amount of time that I have available per weekend. Based on my averages I set my sprints to eight hours.

For the sake of time I will only share the process for the Back Yard Team although I did go through the same process with all areas of my yard.

Backlog Refinement

The Backlog refinement is the process of going through user stories and prioritizing in importance.

My first step was understanding my backlog items for my back yard. The back yard was suffering from a lack of maintenance but there were some additional improvements also needed. Here are examples of the back yard user stories.
1. A person can't comfortably walk across the lawn.
2. There is no convenient place for barbecuing/ hangout.
3. A person can't see over the fence because of the overgrown hedges.
4. Kids can't play in the sandbox because it is filled with leaves.
5. With the time change, it gets dark too early for kids to play.
During the refinement meeting I looked at the backlog items and put them in a prioritize list. After reviewing the user stories I placed them in this order.
1. A person can't comfortably walk across the lawn.
2. Kids can't play in the sandbox because it is filled with leaves.
3. With the time change, it gets dark too early for kids to play.
4. A person can't see over the fence because of the overgrown hedges.
5. There is no convenient place for barbecuing/ hangout.
Walking across the lawn comfortably had the highest importance since no one could easily walk from one side of the yard to the other. Since the "convenient place for barbecuing/ hangout" was still being fleshed out it had the lowest priority.

Sprint Planning Meeting

Sprint Planning is the process of assigning user stories and tasks to an actual sprint.

During my Sprint Planning Meeting, which took place over my morning coffee, I broke the user stories into tasks that I could accomplish in my 8 hour sprint (not considered here are my garden and front yard projects). I also sized the subtasks to better understand the work load by labeling Small, Medium, and Large.

1. A person can't comfortably walk across the lawn.
Breaks into two subtasks:
a. Mow Lawn - Small
b. Rake fallen acorns - Medium

2. Kids can't play in the sandbox because it is filled with leaves.
a. Clean out all leaves - Small

3. With the time change, it gets dark too early for kids to play.
a. Research 3 solutions for lights - Small
Installing lights for the back yard was too large a task to complete in one sprint with my other priorities, so I added one small item of researching solutions for lighting.

Daily Scrum

The Daily Scrum is a daily check in with everyone to review how their previous day's work had gone, what they plan to do today and what blockers (items that don't let them get to their work) are in their way. Typically it's a 5-15 minute stand up meeting.

My daily scrum took place as I got ready to do my work. As I gathered my tools and pulled up my boots I noticed that I couldn't mow the lawn until I removed all the kids toys (blockers). I took note that I needed to do that. The next day I'll have another daily scrum and review my mowing and plan how to rake leaves from sandbox, etc.

Sprint Review Meeting

At the end of the sprint, scrum teams will demonstrate their incremental work with a review of their results.

I brought out the stakeholders to behold the yard work that was completed and got their feedback. Feedback ranged from complimentary messages like my wife saying "Nice job mowing" to the negative, "Dad THERE ARE STILL LEAVES IN MY TOY TRUCK!". As the team, I took the feedback and wrote new user stories to add to my backlog -- for example, "Users can't use their sand toys because the toys still have leaves in them".

Retrospective Meeting

In this meeting the team looks back at its work and its process for inspection and adaptation.

I had my retrospective while sipping a cold beer and admiring the work I'd done. I discoverd that my lawn mowing wasn't low enough and planned for all future lawn mowing that the blade be lowered. That would be a change to the process.

Hopefully, it was obvious how I was able to benefit from using Agile Scrum Framework to take care of my yard work. I am truly thankful in discovering it and how it has benefited me by helping me manage my time and tasks. Have you used Agile Scum? How?
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