Joshua Jack serves as Director, National Agile Practice at MATRIX. He is a Certified Scrum Master and Certified Scrum Professional.
Agile Dad: The Kitchen Remodel, Part 1
I will gladly say it – HGTV is from the devil. Yep, these shows (going all the way back to “This Old House”) have given the average homeowner the idea that they can achieve miracles in their homes. I have additional reason to believe this – my parents are pros in the construction business. My dad is a successful architect and my mom is a designer that makes Joanna Gaines look bush league (not really, but I'm dramatic by nature). Anyway, every home I was raised in was either built by my parents or heavily remodeled. While some say Christmas smells of pine and cinnamon, in my world Christmas smells like Minwax.
We love our home that we have been in for five years now. It was and is a great place for us right now, except the wonderful previous owners fell in love with 90s Kirkland's and the house reflected it. All of the walls (I mean all) were painted a taupe-green color and the kitchen was earth tone on earth tone with a smidge of earth tone thrown in. In other words, not this modern-rustic-farmhouse-loft family’s idea of a beautiful kitchen. So we decided to put our touch on it like the rest of the house. After putting it off for a couple years, we jumped in this summer. But we did things a little differently. What I mean by this is we used agile principles and practices to (somewhat) finish our kitchen remodel (more on this later).
The first thing to establish was our guiding principles. Wait, hold up. For those of you who are thinking, “just go ahead and do the dang kitchen already – stop spending time on ‘principles',” please understand that this wasn’t a two-hour deep dive/whiteboard session but rather just some things we thought about. So, we knew that we needed to keep the kitchen open for use (business need), and we knew that we needed to fail fast and fix fast because we had never done one of these before. In the end, we found that all of the stuff below applied to a kitchen remodel!
The second question/decision was whether we take an incremental or iterative approach. We often use a Mona Lisa example to describe the difference between the two:
Effectively, what we mean is “do we know what the outcome will look like completely to the letter or do we want to have room for learning and responding?” We knew that we sort of knew what we wanted (a brighter kitchen, something to match the counters, a feel that tied into our style, but we didn’t know how it would end up. For us, there were other more important decisions that needed to be made rather than, “we are going to follow the plan.”
Finally, we had to figure out how we wanted to approach the schedule. When we figured in our learning curve, our budget, our variability with knowing exactly what we wanted, we realized that our features needed to be variable. We have watched too many shows where homeowners go over budget by thousands of dollars due to time and feature battles, but with a daughter going to college this fall, we couldn’t have it! We also had to keep our quality high! To us, this meant caring about the time and cost and how it affected quality rather than trying to get everything we want but sacrificing ultimate quality.
These are all questions that organizations pose daily. Agility allows us to get moving, learn from doing, adjust to markets and customers, and maintain a lean approach. It doesn’t matter if it is software or a kitchen – these concepts can help you avoid a pitfall because they work and they simply apply.
Next time, I’ll talk more about what happened. Just for my sanity, this will be around our cadenced approach, the decisions we made on design and products, the “primer” debacle, and more importantly, how hard it is to finish!