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Agile Home Improvement Using Atlassian Tools

Aug 13, 2019 11:59:00 AM

This year, my husband and I decided to FINALLY spend some money on the house. We started our conversation about home improvement at the end of 2018, thinking about “the list”: need, want, nice to have. We went through the exercise of writing separate lists to compare and prioritize. Quite frankly, I was surprised at how similar they were. We quickly realized there was a need to actually organize and prioritize instead of working on notebook paper, fridge magnets, and the occasional sticky note.

Trello vs Jira Software Cloud

When we were planning our wedding in 2015, we used Jira Software Cloud. We had a Kanban Board with tasks and actions. My husband, while enjoying the fact we had a list we could access from anywhere, struggled to actually transition the cards through the workflow. With my travel schedule what it was before we got married, I was constantly calling and texting because there were no updates on the Board. He especially hated the WIP limit I added to the In Progress column. He called it the "stop nagging me" column. In the end, it wasn't too terrible. It gave us a chance to talk about each others' annoying habits: my constant need for status updates and his inability to ever finish anything (wink). While it made our marriage stronger, it also taught both of us we needed something a little more lightweight to manage our home. 

This time, we’re using Trello. We have fewer cards and use checklists to manage the work. We still have a backlog, but it's concise and doesn't scare my husband with all the agile terminology. 

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New Back Door with Dog Door? Check. New Ceiling Fan. Check. New Floors? Hmm...we have to research those. Floors can get pricey pretty quickly. While our budget wasn't tiny and we decided to install them ourselves, there are always hidden costs. We added a research column with a few requirements: budget, material choice, finish, and installation method (floating or glue-down). We finalized the budget and away we went. We chose a dark finish engineered bamboo (heh. get it?) and determined we could afford to do the whole house minus the wet areas (Kitchen, Master Bath, and Spare Bathroom). Several monies, a week for delivery, and a week to let the floors acclimate, we were ready to build. 

Bamboo* as the Foundation

*Not the treelike grasses of the family Poaceae. But working with Atlassian Bamboo during my day job got me thinking about continuous integration and continuous delivery while we laid down our floors. My husband and I created the project and plan. Our project name: Floors. Our Plan: LDHB (Living Room, Den, Hallway, Bedrooms). Our repository was the 90 boxes of floors stacked pallet-style. Our repository was centralized so we can both pull from the materials as needed. Our trigger for our build: moisture barrier and underlayment installed. 

The real fun was determining the Tasks. This was my first floor. While I understood the fundamentals, I needed some guidance to make sure I laid them down correctly. While he tackled the large areas, I was solely responsible for the Master Bedroom. My husband, who has laid over a dozen floors over the last few years, gave me the tasks:

  • Start in the corner of the longest wall
  • Insert spacer at the end of the board next to the wall
  • Insert two spacers for each board down the wall
  • Stop both tasks once close to the end of the wall

Pretty simple. However, my first floor required feedback. To be honest, I failed my first build based on feedback from my husband. I kept running the tasks without stopping for cuts at the end of each row. I had to remove some of my work, adjust, and rework the tasks: 

  • Start in the corner of the longest wall
  • Insert spacer at the end of the board next to the wall
  • Insert two spacers for each board down the wall
  • Stop both tasks once close to the end of the wall
  • Measure for cut piece
  • Cut piece
  • Install cut piece
  • Grab additional boards

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While it took me a little longer to get it right, the results are pretty spectacular. I was surprised at how easy it was to get into a rhythm. Once I had the right tasks, I could repeat the build relatively quickly and solicit feedback less often as I made fewer mistakes. 

Home Improvement Retrospective

Once we finished the floors, it was time for a retrospective. After all, we both learned new skills whether they were physical skills or communication skills. And you can't have Home Improvement without the Improvement. 

What did we do well?

  • Coordinated the Jobs and Tasks to make sure work was divided
  • Clear responsibilities as to who can and should do what
  • More experienced teammates provided good feedback for less experienced teammates

What could we have done better?

  • More cleaning ahead of the start date (SO MUCH DOG HAIR)
  • Earlier feedback based on the Tasks to prevent the first failed build
  • Planning for food (although our local restaurants and DoorDash drivers made a mint from us)

What actions can we take going forward?

  • Ask for feedback earlier in the entire process
  • Explain "why" each other prefers a specific technique or method
  • Freezer meals or Crockpot meals set up during the day

Continuous Improvement 

We're both feeling pretty confident now that we've tackled a relatively large home improvement project together. Trello's lightweight, flexible interface helps us better communicate and prioritize the needs versus wants of home improvement. Either one of us can add items to the backlog and we have: new interior hardware, update window treatments, etc. This way, each month we can evaluate our budget and either take on smaller improvements or hold off and make a larger improvement after a couple of months. 

Do you use any of your 'work' tools to manage your 'home' life? Contact us to share your use cases!

Written by Amanda Babb

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