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September 07, 2017

Baby Scrum (Sounds Better than “Lean-Baby-ban”)

3 mins read

Sometimes taking your work home is something we try to avoid. But sometimes it just makes sense. With a special thanks to my current employer Excella Consulting, this is an example of how taking my work home kept me sane.


48 hours without sleep and 1 hour into parenting

My wife and hour-old son were recovering together and sleeping in the next room. I was elated, relieved, exhausted, and excited. Amid my emotional amalgamation; my first revelation was how poorly prepared I was and all the things I had to do. I tried to sleep but I couldn’t bring myself to lie down yet. The world hadn’t stopped; I had to feed pets, do laundry, inform people, get the nursery ready, and assemble 8000 different baby gadgets, furniture, etc.

I knew it could wait for after a nap but what if I forgot something? It is all important and needs to get done and all has to be done ASAP and if I don’t do it, who will? (I am pretty sure this is the run-on sentence mantra of every first-time Dad).

“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” ~ Chinese Proverb

 When you are exhausted it is the “muscle memory” of repetition, practice and experience that take over. Lean has a principle of “start where you’re at” (as paraphrased from Trent Hone, Excella Agile Coach) and that is what I did.

As a Senior Agile Business Analysis Consultant at Excella, a large function of my role is to break down product concepts into smaller digestible bites that can then be executed. So that is what I decided to do. I cleared the whiteboard in my home office and grabbed whatever sticky pads I had hanging around. I put white pads in the different rooms of the house, took pink for myself, put green next to my wife and transcribed hers. Made my scrum board and threw everything into the backlog. And then I slept…

Continuous Process Improvement

Two weeks into six of parental leave (did I mention Excella is a “Top 20 Places” to work in DC?)

After the dust settled a bit, some but not much sleep was gotten and we prioritized the task board for my “Honey-do List” now “Baby Scrum”.

Over the next couple weeks, I started to tweak our family process.

I had refined stories like “child-proofing” into epics and broke it down to things like: cabinets, doors, electrical sockets, sliding doors, toilets, anchoring furniture, etc.

I had color-coded themes such as daily tasks (like “pets” and “laundry”; admin tasks (like applying for SSN), home repair tasks, external tasks (have to leave home) and major projects/epics (the bris, child proofing, taxes, etc.).

I made swim lanes for family helping us out and had them initial their cards for visual accountability. This had mixed results (euphemistically speaking) and this part of the process experiment was scrapped.

Process Maturity

Now at 4 months in and looking forward

Currently we are considering how to grow our process into integrating with our road-mapping (this one might be mutually exclusive with parenting) and budget planning.

The important part of process maturity (and hopefully with parenting), is understanding there is no perfection. It can always get better, the quality is in the pursuit and it’s intent. It is important to keep experimenting even if sometimes the experiments fail. Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And for goodness sake do not (figuratively or, in this case, literally) throw the baby out with the bath water.

“Keep all the stickies, present them at his/her’s 18th birthday (with your bill).”
Rich McCabe, Former Excella Agile Coach

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