Agile frameworks can help you set priorities and get things done in lots of different situations, not just in software development. I’ve been using Scrum and Kanban to organize my life for five months now. I know of people who teach their children agile principles and have happier, more peaceful children as a result.
Just a couple weeks ago, I helped my Toastmasters club solve a problem using agile principles. I’m the president of the club (at least through the end of June, 2017), so when we were having problems getting the room set up before the meetings, I decided to come up with a solution.
The meeting room for my Toastmasters club wasn’t always set up in time for the meeting. Our Sergeant at Arms was having to stay late at work frequently, because the IT department where he worked was moving its servers and moving its offices – and to different locations. Sometimes, he didn’t know until the absolute last minute that he couldn’t come to a meeting. He had an assistant Sgt. at Arms, but his assistant couldn’t always come to the meetings, either, especially not on short notice.
Club members were willing to help set our room, but not everyone was familiar with what needed to be done, especially the newer members.
My task was to find a way to make it easy to get the meeting room set up, even if a Sgt. at Arms or an experienced member of the club wasn’t there. I wanted to find a way that didn’t involve one person directing everybody. I also needed to make the directions visible and easy to follow, and make it easy for anyone to tell what tasks had been done, which were being done, and which needed to be done.
I created an agile board. For columns, I used the essential workflow states: “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done.” I listed the tasks in a way that anyone who was familiar with the end result could know what needed to be done; in other words, the tasks related to easily observable artifacts in the meeting: evaluation forms, pens, agendas, etc.
At the next meeting, I got there early. I put up the board and the directions at the front of the room, along with Post-It notes and a pen, and let people discover it as they came in. If people were puzzled I briefly explained it, but that was all.
It worked! The club members were intrigued with the board and with the process, and the meeting room was set up by the first three or four club members who arrived, even though not all of them were familiar with the process. And they did it without the Sgt. at Arms having to be there and without anyone directing the process.
At the end of the meeting that evening, we did a brief retrospective on using the board. We talked about what went well, and we talked about what didn’t: I observed that the ribbons for Best Speaker, Best Evaluator, etc. hadn’t been set out. But people pointed out that I hadn’t put that task on the board! Inadvertently, I’d illustrated the importance of inspecting and adapting, and I added that task to the board for the next meeting.
Given how busy our club members are, and the practical realities of our Sgt. at Arms not always able to be there to set up the meeting, we now have a way to set up the room that’s easy to follow, that’s effective, and that everyone can contribute to.