Scrum4Mom

Nicole Belilos

Are you a working mother? Do you feel a day simply does not have enough hours to get everything done? Do you wake up in the middle of the night, worrying about all the items on your endless to-do lists? Do you have to nag all the time to get your kids and husband to do anything at all around the house?

Well, then Scrum4Mom might just be what you need.  It is a totally new way to run your household. Scrum4Mom has the power to change your life.

Let me explain how it works.

Backlog

The first thing you have to do is to create a so-called Product Backlog. Take all your different to-do lists and merge them into one. The home improvement list, the daily chores list, the Spring cleaning list, the social obligations list…

Now turn the items on the to-do list into user stories, such as:

As a mother, I want you to clean up your bedroom,
so that sleeping in it is no longer a health hazard.

As an inhabitant of this house, I want the living room painted,
so that the color matches the new furniture.

As a tired woman, I want to get a nice backrub
so that I can relax after a long day of work.

Once you have created these user stories, you have to prioritize them!  I know, it’s tough, because you probably want it all:  the clean bedroom, the painted walls and the backrub.  But you have to make choices. Think what will make you happiest, and put that at the top of the list.

Team

Your team consists of your husband and your kids. You could also consider outsourcing some of the work to a cleaning lady, a painter or a masseur. However, outsourcing is not cheaper and involves higher risks. Therefore, stick to the core team in the beginning.

Sprint planning

Pick one-week Sprints. This is probably the longest period you can go without changing your mind. Every Sprint starts on Saturday morning with a planning session. After breakfast, sit down with your team and explain the user stories that you would like to get done that week. The team, eager to understand your wishes, will ask you for details: “Hon, do you want all the walls in the same color?”  “Mom, do you want me to vacuum my room to?”

When the stories are clear, the team will estimate them and then they will tell you how much they can do in one week. You might be a little disappointed at first, as they will plan in less than you had hoped for. But beware! You are not allowed to push them to commit to more.  And remember that this is only the start. Over time, your team will become high performing.

Sprinting

Now this is where the good part starts. During the week, the user stories will flow on the Scrum board from To Do to Done. As your team is self-organizing, you no longer need to nag nor complain. Stuff simply gets done. Magically. All you need to do is approve the work that is finished. Is your son’s room really clean? Done! Was it a good backrub? Done! Sometimes, as you go along, you discover what you really want:  “Honey, I know you just spent 5 days painting the living room green.  But now that I see it, I really think yellow would look a lot nicer.” And that’s just fine. Your team embraces change.

Backlog grooming

While your team is working on this Sprint’s user stories, you are busy grooming the backlog to prepare the next Sprint.  Adding new stories is not hard; they seem to pop up daily and massively.  It’s the prioritization that makes it a challenging job.

Sprint Review

On Friday evening, you and your team get together for the Sprint Review meeting. This is where you get a demo of all the stories that are Done.  Major stakeholders, like your son’s girlfriend, are welcome to attend the meeting too.

Now this is a moment of family bliss. They have worked all week to make you happy. Show them your gratitude. Bake a cake.  Take them to McDonalds. Celebrate success. Let the team enjoy and have some fun for a moment, so that they can start the next Sprint with renewed energy.

Resistance

When you first introduce Scrum4Mom into your home, you will encounter resistance. Change is hard. So be prepared. Your husband will tell you it’s a good idea, but he really does not have the time to do it next to his (other) job.  Your son will tell you that Scrum4Mom probably works in other families, but not in yours, because you are different.  Your daughter will resist openly, threatening that she will move out if you stick to this crazy idea.

Don’t give up. Be patient. Introducing Scrum4Mom takes time. You might have to struggle; you might loose a few team members. But it’s worth it. Scrum4Mom will change your life. Scrum4Mom will make you happy.  And your family too.

Comments (12)

  1. Simon - Reply

    April 1, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Bring back waterfall!

  2. Laurens Bonnema - Reply

    April 1, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Great blog! As an avid Scrum4Dad Practitioner, I can attest to the effectiveness of Getting Things Done with Scrum in a household setting. To make it more fun (and keep the male population in your household involved) you could add http://www.chorewars.com/ to the mix. We did, and it works!

  3. Daan - Reply

    April 1, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    I bet it will work as well as in software development (which means it will seem to work, but it does not work in the long term).

  4. Pieter Rijken - Reply

    April 1, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    I like the blog! The one week sprints will also help in not having to sign up for 'Help! Mijn man is een klusser."

  5. Wilfred - Reply

    April 2, 2012 at 8:28 am

    It bothers me a little that this so called 'mom' person seems to be the only product owner (making decisions on priority) and also the only one with the ability to put items in the backlog. It seems that Scrum4Mom is not too big on collective ownership, and isn't really reaping the benefits of other team members having good ideas that could contribute to the goal of the team, which I assume is team happiness. (In fact, it seems the whole process isn't so much about that goal at all; for all of the stories planned, it might be good to ask Why five times.) Is this really agile at all, or is it waterfall in disguise?

  6. Ben Linders - Reply

    April 2, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Great blog!

    To make the sprints complete, I suggest to add a retrospective, friday late. Pour in some glasses of wine (and Jip & Janneke champagne for the kids) and look back how things have gone during the week. You celebrated the highlights earlier that evening, so the family strenghts are already known. But maybe there is something that you can improve, or that puzzled you? Reflect and learn.

    Don't stay up to late, saturday morning it's the planning game, so you want to be fresh and full of energy for the next sprint :-).

    • Nicole Belilos - Reply

      April 4, 2012 at 3:10 pm

      Hey Ben,

      You are so right! How could I forget the retrospective? Very, very important to keep improving.
      Can we have potato chips and tapas to go with these drinks? 🙂

      Nicole

  7. Paul Verkaart - Reply

    April 3, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Very funny Nicole, I'm still grinning!

    "Pick one-week Sprints. This is probably the longest period you can go without changing your mind. ", spot on!
    For new Product Owners these one week sprints might still be a bit heavy though. I'd say start with one day sprints and work up from there. 🙂

    All jokes aside, me and my wife actually use SCRUM in our bigger household 'projects' and this has hugely improved our planning, cooperation and most importantly happiness!

  8. Irene Voet - Reply

    April 3, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Good idea to promote this for families. I agree that women are the best PO's in this setup, since they know exactly what tasks needs to be done around the house. It would feel so good to us if husbands and children would check on a regular basis where they could be of help. And a happy mom, who doesn't need to nag continuously, is so much more fun for everyone!

  9. Lia - Reply

    April 4, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Wow, i wish i had à team i could get to sit around the table on saturday morning... Good thing i don't start big household projects.... Happy to take the outsourcing risk !

  10. Jenni Jepsen - Reply

    April 7, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Great blog! Funny and spot on! Hmmm, perhaps there is something around the ownership thing -- especially with the kids! Your user stories made me think about how you DO need to communicate in benefits even at home! 🙂 We, too, use Agile in our household projects...even though Post-its don't really match my decor...

  11. Jacqueline Evers - Reply

    January 13, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Hi Nicole,

    So... does Scrum4Mom still work for you?

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