Using Agile in Home Renovation

Written in collaboration with Ruchi Choudhary

Summary: When I ask people about Agile, many people think of it as a super official management process, and some think of it as a technical practice popular with software engineers.

In this example, we show how we can adapt the Agile way of doing things to almost anything, including home renovation!

Imagine you’re getting your family home renovated, and the renovations are to take place while you and your family continue to live in the same house. Yes, quite the pickle! Situations like these demand aggressive planning and prioritizing otherwise, daily life at home could not only be utterly disrupted but could also be hazardous. Plumbing, wiring, flooring, fixing electrical equipments, bathroom fixtures, wood work, painting and the list is endless. If these tasks are not laid down in a proper order and performed accordingly, that could lead to a complete misadventure.

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When we’re dealing with a situation described above, we have 3 major constraints —

  • The house should almost always be in a usable condition: There are times when there will be mess, but it should not feel like you’re living on a construction site.
  • We have limited time: We have jobs, families, friends, parties to attend, dinners to cook.
  • We have a limited budget: Different people have different constraints. Some can use a percentage of their salary in renovation every month, whereas some might be doing renovation from a separate saving fund of limited amount.

What should we do first?

Agile is a set of values and principles that help you create and execute your project in a flexible manner.

Let’s list down what we would normally do when we’re planning for such a project, and then we’ll see how all of that relates to Agile.

Step 1: Form an exhaustive list

Firstly, proper list of the tasks need to be formed. With careful detailing, the order in which the tasks will be performed needs to be laid down (keeping in mind the disruptions it will cause and how to compensate for the caused disruption).

Now, that seems like common sense. There’s a tool that Agile practitioners love to use that makes it super easy to organise these tasks. It is called the master story list, or the backlog. Below is an example of how you could create and organise a backlog of tasks.

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Step 2: Prioritisation

A household cannot function smoothly without its vitals (if the kitchen and the bathrooms are compromised for too long). Therefore, a strategy needs to be formed where the basic needs of the family members are not curtailed but, without forgoing renovations.

Prioritisation is a critical part of how Agile works. There are multiple tools that Agile practitioners use. One example is the image below. It is called the MoSCoW method. You can read about other methods here.

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Step 3: Planning

Painting the walls before the wiring and plumbing are fitted in would be stupid, wouldn’t it? That is exactly why planning is essential. It saves you the cost of mending mistakes and a whole lot of time.

Step 4: Feedback

It is impossible to plan everything at once, and get everything right. Therefore Agile depends a lot on iteration and feedback. Instead of buying light fixtures for the entire house at one time and replace everything at one go, the iterative strategy would be to change fixtures of one room, get feedback from other people at home, understand if the fixtures are usable or need to be changed, and then replace the fixtures for the other rooms.

Step 5: Communication

Home renovation, just like any project, is about constant communication. Understanding the needs of other people at home, their thoughts, their desires, and collaboratively improving the home will lead to a happier process and a better end result.

Have you ever been in a tricky situation where you are at odds with your parents, loved ones or your colleagues, and the reason is mere miscommunication? Well, who doesn’t want to lead a hassle-free day where you are at the same wavelength as your family or colleagues, and you don’t have to go through the extra effort of clarifying misunderstandings? If we communicate frequently and precisely with everyone around us, and we are more open to making amends according to others, we could all save ourselves an extra hour in the day and make time for something productive!

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By now, I hope that I have been able to put across an elementary description of Agile and Iteration. The unique attribute of Agile is that its principles are highly practical and unpretentious. Therefore, it is not challenging to incorporate the same in our lives.

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