2013-01-23, Vaidas Adomauskas
Over the last year that has just ended, I had to present Agile project management and conduct training to non-IT people. Agile project management interested members of the Lithuanian Association of Engineering Industry, ISM Manager Master‘s degree program students and current directors of various companies (for ex., a translation company director).
I can base the training on my personal experience when talking with IT people, which they seem to actually value. But how to persuade people from different fields that Agile, Lean or Lean Startup ideas can be useful for them, too? That the systems can be effectively used not only abroad, but also in Lithuania? Of course, I thought of many examples and probable real situations. Despite that, most warm emotions got my stories about two personal projects that I did this year using Agile principles. One of them was the renovation of my fiancée’s and my flat and the other – our wedding. They are clearly distinguished by differently colored post-its on our project management board:
Typical project limitations
Why do I dare to call these two assignments “projects”? It’s because they have typical project features. They both had fixed completion dates (if we could discuss the end of the flat renovation, there could be no doubts about the delay of our wedding project J ). Of course, we discussed and fixed our budgets. The project administrators were also very clear – only the two of us and our time we could put into these projects after our jobs and other activities. And, of course, we hired other people for the renovation and some of our wedding tasks, thus, we had sub-contractors. Seems like typical projects, doesn’t it?
No doubt, we could’ve tried to plan them both in detail, describe accurately and only then launch them. Or choose another way that’s very common in personal and company projects – start the project and just hope that it will all fall into place. But we sat down, wrote down the results that we wished to achieve and their scope (how much time and money can we put into them) and prioritized accordingly. Of course, the priorities were adjusted by their task dependencies, for example, no matter how much you’d like to delay the installment of the air conditioner, but if you wish to hide its connection cords in the wall, you have to install it before you daub the walls.
We could’ve put all the tasks into some electronic device which could be reached from work, be easily edited, details could be added and so on… But I followed my long-term practice that it’s best to visualize the works on paper and post-its. So we glued all the prioritized tasks onto a Scrum board with 3 columns. This gave us confidence and calmed us down as, even though, there were many jobs to be done, they were all known and written down. Of course, new tasks appeared, others were changed during the projects, but they were all changed on the board as well, so we could clearly see the situation.
Work In Progress (WIP) limitation
Secondly, we agreed that we won’t work on more than 3 tasks of each project at the same time. As you can see form the board’s photo, it was quite hard to keep to this rule, we broke it often, but the intentionally narrow “Doing now” column made us think about the probability that we’ll work on all of the tasks actively during the week. If not, it’s better to put them back into the “To do” column till we have the time to come back to them. As we later discussed it with my wife, the avoidance of doing too much at one time helped us to concentrate, do the undertaken tasks quickly and have less of the known-to-all “Oh, I have so much work, so much to do and no time to do it” stress.
It would be indecorous to brag about the quality of our projects J . I can only tell you, that we live in a beautifully renovated apartment and our wedding was just like we imagined it, and inspired by the success of these projects, I’ve decided to change jobs at the end of the year – join a newly created startup. So now I have a new challenge – to create an innovative company in Lithuania that works according to Agile and Lean startup principles and creates a product used by everyone – “WoraPay” – the mobile payment system. How we’re doing, what Agile and Lean practices we’re using, what’s succeeding and what’s not, I’ll try to describe in this blog.
It would be very interesting to hear about your experiences on carrying out personal projects using Agile principles. Please comment and share with all of us.