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Scrum for Individuals

Scrum is a simple framework for effective team collaboration on complex projects. It is a way for teams to work together to develop a product. But it is not limited to teams only; it works well for individuals also. Personal scrum is an agile methodology that adapts and applies scrum practices to one- person projects. It promotes personal productivity through observation, adaptation, progressive elaboration, prioritizing and sizing work, and time-boxing.

Mike Cohn, founder of Mountain Goat Software shared his way of managing day to day work using scrum, in his recent blog. He uses one week of sprints and starts each sprint on Saturday or Sunday.

Dustin Wax, executive director at Burlesque Hall of Fame, shared his thoughts on personal scrum in his blog on Scrum for One as:

While intended for big, collaborative projects, there were a lot of elements of Scrum that could be adapted pretty well to individual productivity.

Dustin says that the idea of scrum is applicable to our personal lives. The whole point is, through a process of constant self-awareness, to identify what is holding us back, how we can work around it, and where the next few days or weeks should take us. He highlights following points for the implementation of “Scrum for One”:

  • Do what you can with what you have.
  • Constant self-reflection
  • Work towards clearly-defined, short-term goals.
  • Plan and work in sprints

Dustin says to be focused for the personal work. For this people can block out a number of hours every day and use them to focus strictly on one project – no distractions, no knocking off early, no nothing until you reach your goal.

In contrast to behavioral aspect of scrum, people can use specific practices too, like sprints, planning etc. Mike uses tool – “Things” for managing his work. “Things” is an online task manager. It provides management of To-Dos.

“Things” structures work into projects and areas of responsibility. A project is something that ends. For me an example might be: “Conduct a training class in Silicon Valley.” I can add various tasks to a project. In this case, I might add “select a venue,” “prepare course materials,” and “book flight to San Jose.”

In contrast, an area of responsibility is something that never ends. I have areas such as “website,” “marketing” and “finances.” Like projects, areas of responsibility can contain tasks. The areas I’ve listed might include “update home page,” “look at SEO rankings,” and “pay American Express bill.”

Each weekend Mike reviews “Things”, looking for items that must be done in the coming week. He also tags items. He uses a common set of tags of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on, plus “this week.” In this way he manages his work in sprint cycle of one week.

Dustin says that we can improve our productivity by using scrum even at the individual level.

Scrum is a very effective way of managing projects, and is used by software giants like Microsoft as well as tiny start-ups and everything in between. If nothing else, next time you’re stuck, ask yourself the simple question, “What’s standing in my way right now?” and see if that doesn’t lead to “OK, what am I going to do about it?”

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