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How to Apply Scrum to Non-Technical Work

Posted by Eugene Lai on May 16, 2019 10:00:00 AM

Many Scrum and Agile experts consider Scrum to be a “project management” tool. While you may or may not agree with this opinion, I think I understand why people take this perspective. Scrum is unique in that it provides the basic foundation (a.k.a. “framework”) for doing any kind of work, even though it was designed by software development professionals for the purposes of building better software.

Scrum can be leveraged for basic activity planning and management for any kind of work. Let’s take a mundane example of managing general parenting activities such as packing a school lunch, planning a field trip, preparing for and attending school events such as concerts or parent-teacher meetings. All these tasks can be managed using Scrum.

So, how would this work? I will give you a few more details on how you could apply Scrum practices to this type of situation.

  1. Create a Product Backlog: Even though you are not building a “product” per se, you have a list of things that need to get done. I have a feeling that this list almost never gets shorter. A good place to start is to identify all the things that need to get done within a period of time so we have visibility into what they are. This also enables us to prioritize accordingly. It my also be helpful to assign relative sizing to each item, such as extra-small, small, medium, large, extra-large.
  2. Set a time box: We need to set a time horizon to help us limit our planning. If we try to plan the entire year, it may be beneficial, but it would likely take a lot more effort. So, for the time being, let’s just plan 2 weeks at a time and see how things go.
  3. Plan your sprint: Identify things that “must” and “should” get done within the next 2 weeks. Don’t try to look too far ahead, but focus on the 2 weeks for now. Make sure the list is in order of priority, and try to get a mixture of differently-sized tasks; don’t choose a high number of large tasks because they will likely bog you down.
  4. Update your list daily: As work is started/completed, update your task list with the latest status. You may find that using a checklist works well, or perhaps having a whiteboard with Post-It notes could be helpful too. If you are technically savvy, you may also want to try using a mobile app.
  5. Review and adjust.: At the end of this first 2-week period, take a look at what you completed and compare that against your original plan. Did you find any surprises? Did you get more (or less) done than you had hoped? What impacted the outcome? Did someone or something get in your way unexpectedly? This reflection will help you determine how much work you can expect to complete within a 2-week time frame, which should enable you to refine your plan in the future.

There are many ways to apply Scrum to everyday tasks. Give it a try and see how it works for you; you may wonder why you hadn’t tried it sooner!

This blog is brought to you in partnership with ASPE. 

Topics: Agile Training

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