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With Scrum, with Ease, not the Usual Hassle

I got this idea from reading a great book by Jeff Sutherland, Scrum, The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time.  That was a promise I couldn’t resist.

Of course, scrum is for high performing teams.  Not for the solo business owner like me — and many of you — who do most of the work on and in our businesses by ourselves.  Maybe with a little help from our friends, or the person we pay to do the things we just have no talent for.

So, how might it work for us, if indeed it could work for a team of one?  There was only one thing to do, try it out.  And it works a treat!

The concept is simple.  Almost magical.  And so is the way it works.   

There are two aspects to scrum:

  • The project and
  • Its execution

Both are really valuable for us as business owners.  To keep it simple today, I’m going to focus on just one of them — how we can easily, almost effortlessly increase dramatically both the quality and quantity of what we get done in a day or week.

It’s a real blessing when you’re overworked and under valued.

The first thing you need is a whiteboard.  I use the magic whiteboard sheets (link) you can put up on any spare bit of wall.  A few packs of post it notes and a couple of dry marker pens.  This is your scrum board.

Divide the whiteboard sheet into four equal columns and label them:

                         Backlog                     To Do                    Doing                    Done

And put it up on a spare bit of wall where you can consult it every day.  This is where you get to see really clearly exactly what’s so with your plans for the week.  This is what mine looked like at the start of this week.

The Scrum Board in Practice

The “Backlog” is the list of the myriad things you have to do.  For each of them grab a post it note and write the name of the task on it with a marker pen.  There isn’t a great deal of space so you’ll need to keep it simple. 

And on each of these post it notes, include a definition of what ‘done’ means.  As a for instance, my activity this week to do a content audit of my blog posts includes the following definition of done:

The Definition of 'Done'

Estimating Your Tasks

It also has a number on it — 8, which is my best estimate of what’s involved.  I use the recommended Fibonacci series for these and I am — and many other people are — lousy at estimating how how it’s going to take to do something, or how difficult it is to get it done. 

  • Super easy tasks 1
  • Fairly easy and straightforward 2
  • Bit more involved 3
  • Getting a bit complicated 5
  • Starting to get challenging 8
  • Even more complicated 13
  • Super difficult and involved 21

Any more complicated than that and I break it down.

As you progress with this, you’ll get better and better at estimating the difficulty — time and intellectual effort — required to do each of the activities on your To Do List.  The whole point of scrum is to learn, to get better and better at getting the most important things done.

Your Backlog

Having created all these post it notes, you place them in your ‘Backlog’ column. 

There will probably be far more post it notes than you can fit into that column, so be selective.  Put up those that will make the biggest difference to your business this week.  It may be something quite simple and straightforward — a 2 task, but completing that makes a whole lot of other things possible.   And others for which you have looming deadlines….

Your To Do List

At the start of the week, have a scrum meeting with yourself and decide what you’ll do this week.  Take those post it notes and put them in the ‘To Do” column.  Once there, that’s your commitment.  This is what you do this week. 

Don’t add anything to it. 

That’s the biggest temptation.  But it will ruin the magic and cause your productivity to nose dive.  Take those new ideas or tasks and put them onto post it notes and place them in “Backlog’ to get scheduled another week.

Doing & Done

Then focus on what you’ll do today.  Move post it notes from ‘To Do’ to the ‘Doing’ column as you begin work on them.  Once they are done, according to your definition, move them to the Done’ column and rejoice.  Make sure you rejoice and celebrate your achievements as you go.  A little dance around the room, a Wooo Hoo! shout to celebrate.  Or a nice cup of tea.  Whatever rocks your boat.

Every morning have that meeting with yourself, to review your progress and decide which items you’ll move across your whiteboard.  Just seeing the ‘Done’ post it notes on a Friday afternoon is a real treat.

At the end of the week, put on some great music and gather up all those ‘Done’ post it notes.  Add up the numbers on each of them.  This is your magical productivity score for the week.  Not the number of tasks you’ve done, the number of points of difficulty you’ve achieved.

And as you do this for a few weeks, you’ll start to get better at estimating the difficulty of each task, and of improving your overall performance.  You’ll find that you are getting more points done every week, and more easily and joyfully, because every day you can see — and enjoy — the progress you have made.

I’ve gone from 21 in my first week, to 37 in my second.   And it’s getting better all the time.  Really simple…  Magical and so rewarding.

Let me know how you get on in the comments below.