In 2013 my family and I was challenged with a jumpstart to expand our house. This is about how we used Scrum to do it.


Like most other people I know we planned to make every possible plan for our upcoming event, which was to expand our 1928 built home. Since we have two young children, and we chose to share the house and the yard with my parents we needed more space. We wanted to go from a one-family-home to a two-family-home. Nothing unusual, until we had the final meeting with our architect. She told us, that in one month from now she will sell her company, and retire. This was one month before the expected kick-off, and in the middle of January with frozen ground and snow covering it. All we had up to this date was the general plan for the building authority and their concession to start.

My wife and I had to decide, whether we want to jump-start with unknown requirements, unknown processes, and a fixed end-date. The alternative would have been to go through some longer explanations with a new architect and his/her team and rerun the analysis phase together with them. This took some time upfront, since this old building has its limitations in terms of wall-structures, statics, and such. Our current architect understood all this specifics and made the plans accordingly. Our original intention was to stay in the building and renovate and expand it room by room. With this jump-start, this intention would have been dropped.

We decided to jump-start. My wife and myself we work with Scrum and agile methods and unclear requirements in soft- and hardware projects for quite a while now. It seemed to be a potential solution to our problem. None of us ever applied it to housebuilding, nor did I know someone who did personally, but I remembered a conversation with Jeff Sutherland, in which he told me, that in Boston a construction company uses Scrum for construction sides. Or at least he trained them. So, why not trying it ourselves? Well the risk was, that it could go awfully wrong and the financial risk associated with that was significant. However, we decided to try it, and we jump-started in the middle of winter with a construction side based on Scrum and agile principles.

The outcome was great and we faced many changes along the way. We had drawbacks with some surprises, which we were able to circumnavigate by just being able to react immediately to it. And we had to add a new limitation to it: We had only 6 months overall to complete, since my wife, my children, and my parents had to move out and the other apartments were only available for this period.

In this talk I will present more about this endeavour, the feedback of the craftsmen, how we adapted Scrum and which agile principles we used mainly to work with an iterative incremental approach in housebuilding. For us it was challenging, instructive, and opened eyes for other aspects of agility, we did not face before in mainly IT environments.


Learning Objectives

This is mainly a case-study about agility in a non-IT environment. For the audience the main aspect will most likely be, that agility and Scrum is applicable in other environments than IT, too, but there are certain adaptions necessary and certain limitations. Especially if it comes down to tools, which Scrum does not cover other than talking about artefacts, their selection requires more attention.

Format: Talk (60 minutes)

Speaker Biography - Wolfgang Richter

Wolfgang Richter: Agile enthusiast since 1998. Entrepreneur, innovator, coach, and trainer as passion. Proud Certified LeSS Trainer. Enabler of LeSS, Product Owner, ScrumMaster, and agile coach for individuals, teams, and enterprises in more than 100 endeavours on 3 continents, with projects up to 800 people, volumes up to 1,2 Billion US$, and organizations up to 16.000 employees. And still agile ;)