This really gives new meaning to taking your work home with you. But turning my house cleaning into an ongoing agile project has made it just a little bit more interesting (just a tiny bit).
It's the planning that's the most fun - isn't that the case with everything though. Like writing New Year resolutions which get thrown to the wayside after a couple of weeks. But let's not go down the path of negativity. This time it's different! No one but you cares about your resolutions. But a dirty house is noticeable to three of your five senses - sight , smell, touch...
So I don't mind bring my work home - especially if it's useful.
With my experience working on agile projects, there are three elements I found which I apply to house cleaning...
At work, transparency is for everyone on the team to know who is doing what so that there is no duplicate effort. It's also for our end users and product owner, so they know the progress that's being made and can immediately spot if there may be some possible delays.
When it comes to house cleaning, I look at transparency as - knowing about all the work that needs to be done to meet a goal. In house cleaning, if you're the only one doing it, transparency is for you and everyone else in the space with you.
This way you can see what the actual tasks are and know how much there is to do. When the writing is on the wall, it's hard for you or anyone else to ignore it. It is an easy way to guilt trip people into helping out.
Don't just show the chores that need to get done in a week or in a day. No - show every possible task that needs to be done in order to declutter, organize, clean and maintain your home.
Knowing the reality is much better than having your home be a mystery to you. The benefit is that you eliminate surprises. You will notice if there is a problem with the roof before it becomes a major money sucker. You will notice if the water is draining slowly in the sink and deal with it immediately.
Essentially, you will notice issues early on and be able to fix it early. In software development, the cost to fix a bug becomes more and more expensive the longer it takes to find and fix it. I think that also applies to house cleaning. Once you start doing all your tasks, you will have a better idea of how your home works and what it takes for it to run smoothly. So if there is a problem you will be able to catch it early when its the least expensive to fix.
At work, as part of the development team we don't actually come up with the tasks that need to be done. That's the job of the product owner. They create the list of tasks and prioritizes them. As the team that's doing the actual work - we commit to doing a certain amount of the top priority tasks in the next sprint or timeframe.
The only thing we plan or consider is 'what is the best way to complete the tasks we have committed to'.
With house cleaning though - these roles are not split. I am both the product owner and the developer. As the product owner my goal is to have a home that is quick and easy to clean in the long run.
To accomplish that - I come up with the long list of all the cleaning tasks that need to be done at home. I prioritize it according to rooms and the type of tasks like declutttering tasks, organizing tasks, cleaning tasks and maintenance tasks - in that order.
Now as the developer it's time for me to take action. If my sprint is two weeks long, I commit to doing the top priority tasks in those two weeks. It's like having a binding contract with yourself and your family who you can imagine being disappointed in you if you fail to meet your commitments for no good reason.
In the spirit of kaizen, I've spent many hours online looking for ways to do something better or even just to learn how to complete a cleaning task. Like - how to clear the hair clogged drain in my shower. Mr. Muscle works just fine, but then a friend told me about thick bleach and I haven't looked back since. Although, I am getting just a little bit concerned about how the chemicals affect the plumbing.
Anyway - that's my next research project or future work as we like to say in research.
I also came across an article called "The Cleanest Homes of All" by Ellen Byron where she talked about the 5 different cleaning types of people. What stood out for me in that article was that the most hardcore of cleaners spent only 5 hours per week cleaning and those who tried to avoid cleaning most spent 2.5 hours per week cleaning.
I came away from that article with a couple of thoughts...
That would never fly at work.
There must be a way to measure success.
Knowing how much time we spend on a task is essential. It's one of our major measures of improvement - so we log our time against our tasks every day (well, we're supposed to do it every day).
Anyway by the end we know how much time we spend on our tasks in the sprint and we have a burndown chart which shows us how were doing along the way.
The burndown chart (I absolutely love the name) is a visual line graph which shows how many tasks we committed to and how we are progressing over time. On the graph are two lines, one that shows perfection - what it should look like if we want to finish just in time. The second line shows what we're actually accomplishing in that time.
Here's a snapshot of my burndown chart for writing activities on housecleaning-tips.com.
This is very useful because its acts as an early indicator for if we are falling behind. This is why we should log our time everyday. This also comes in useful when I'm experimenting with a different way of doing something. If the new method takes more time with the same result - then I'm sticking with the old one.
Transparency, action and constant improvement are just one part of turning my house cleaning into an agile project.