Personal Scrum or Work 2.0

So, I’ve been inflicting Scrum on myself.

This is my “eat your own dog food” because I’m an Agile Coach at the company where I work, which in practice means that I try to work with teams and help them with Agile adoption, and in some cases with the Agile development.

For me to preach Scrum and not do it would be at least incoherent, but I can think of even less nice ways to put it.

So, back to the story. I’m using Scrum patterns for managing my own work. Let me explain this a little bit. I’m following a method for the management of my personal work that resembles and is largely based on the patterns that we see in Scrum.

Here’s the key points of how it works:

  1. I have the weekly planning (yes, I’m using weekly iterations/sprints) every week on Monday morning. This is where I look at my backlog (personal and team) and the list of meetings for the week and I plan what I will be doing that week. The weekly plan I put on the wall with post-its.
  2. Every day in the morning (before opening Outlook) I read my task board on the wall and list for myself what I wil try to accomplish during that day (only that day). This becomes my “daily plan” for the work to be done. And the fact that I review the plan daily also helps me to
  3. On Friday I finalize my sprint, do the personal retrospective and review if there’s something from that retrospective that I want to add to my Backlog.

There are more details to this, but these are the key points. I’ll write about the details later.
The Scrum patterns applied with the above items are:

  • The planning day (point 1 above), which in my case is a planning hour (it takes between 45 min and 1,5 hours)
  • The daily check (point 2), which is my review of the task board in the morning and the resulting “daily plan”
  • The retrospective (point 3). Where I analyze my work week and collect “TRY” items (as in Cockburn’s retrospective agenda) that I will implement during next week.

This way I stay familiar with the mechanics of Scrum (not all, but the key points) and have a method for managing my own personal work.

The results have been good. I’ve developed the concept of personal capacity (velocity in XP), which tells me what I can commit to and gives me a good way to communicate with my stakeholders about what I can and cannot accomplish in one week of work.

As a result of knowing my capacity I can now be proactive and manage the “pipe” of work for the next few weeks (I’m keeping a backlog of three weeks for short term actions in a limited queue: credit for Mary Poppendieck for bringing that up in the training at our company).

Maintaining the limited queue for the next 3 weeks in turn helps me not just avoid over committing to work during the ongoing week, but hopefully also for the next three weeks.

The biggest value I get out of the system though, is that now I really am in control of my work and can make informed decisions constantly. I have a proper time management system in place!

This method I call Personal Scrum, when used to manage my personal work, or Management (as in Work Management) Scrum, when used to manage the work of a management team.

8 thoughts on “Personal Scrum or Work 2.0

  1. Vasco, I was glad to come across your blog posting. I’ve been toying with different time management tools, but the idea of personal scrum is quite powerful. I’d also start using a personal scrum. I’m looking for some online site where I can keep my personal backlog and where I can access it from anywhere – mobile, home, office.

  2. I, too, am looking for such an application. Does anyone know of a good personal backlog tool?

  3. Your post was one of the very first ones I read when I decided to apply personal scrum. The thing that I don’t like about your methodology is that your daily scrum is in the morning. I’d think that it might be better that you know what you’ll be doing tomorrow right before you sleep, so that you mentally are prepared to do it next day. Other than this, I think apply scrum in personal life is a very interesting idea.

  4. @Cliff, @Chris I have tried several electronic tools, but I always come back to Excel for burndown (some manual work involved and a wall+post its for the actual planning and follow up). Have you found something?

    @Khaled you should adapt your own process to your needs. For me the morning is best because that way I don’t run the risk of looking at Outlook before I decide what to do that day! 🙂

  5. @Khaled
    In your post you mention that Life goals are not the same as software goals. I agree, but note that that does not mean that Scrum cannot apply.

    I look at Scrum as a work-management method, more than a software management method.

    In my own life I use a mix of Scrum and Getting Things Done-system. I don’t really see a problem with applying it. On the other hand my wife may diasgree 🙂

  6. Hi there.. Nie post about personal Scrum. I starting off as well with Personal Scrum to get organized, but also to get a non Scrum team to see how it works and hopefully get interested in implementing it eventually. I’m doing it as an experiment.. So far it’s successful I think.. =)

    Peter Westlund (@bastlund)

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