Baby Scrum!

Having a baby reminds me a little of planning a wedding in that, when it comes down to it, you really only have to do a couple of things to make it happen, but the list of optional things-to-do is endless. In these events, I tend to enjoy most of the optional things, and Jonathan…well…tolerates them for my sake. So, to deal with this somewhat voluntary stress, we decided to scrum our baby preparations. We’re not really¬† scrumming by the book, but we’re doing enough of it to pretend we are. So, this is where I pretend to know things about scrum and Jonathan later comes back to edit everything I get wrong.

Note: If you’re not familiar with scrum, most of this post should still make sense, but you can learn more here. Or ask Jonathan…he can train you in six hours or so.


Who’s responsible for what:

  • Product Owner – Me. This means I’m supposed to identify the relative value of all our tasks and be able to prioritize them.
  • Scrummaster – Jonathan. Because he’s certified and all. This means that he’s supposed to tell me when I say stupid things about scrum. He also figures out what we’re going to do in each sprint and fixes the sticky notes when they fall off the task board.
  • Team – Me and Jonathan. Because we aren’t hiring someone to do our 140 tasks for us.
  • Stakeholders – Baby, me, and Jonathan. Really, the baby probably only cares about a quarter of our tasks. Jonathan probably only cares about that same quarter. I care about everything else.


Behold, our task board!

Although scrum isn’t defined by the task board, the board kind of captures the important things we’re doing. So, I’ll explain the parts of the task board and how we’re using them to make progress toward being ready for the baby.

  • Backlog – Everything we want to do before the baby gets here. The pink sticky notes are roughly “user stories”, ordered by priority, deadlines, and dependencies on other tasks. They’re just activities that we think will add value to the baby’s environment or just make us and/or the baby happy. Some of them represent bigger tasks than others: “decide on childcare” vs. “register for/buy diaper wipes”.
    • Caveat for professional scrummers: these stickies aren’t really user stories, but they’re the closest thing we’ve got. I more commonly refer to them as “tasks”, but that’s not a good name for them either (since we break some of them down later on). Sorry.
  • To Do – Everything we’ve decided to accomplish within a given week (because we’re doing week-long sprints). These tasks aren’t assigned to either one of us, so throughout the week, we can choose any of these things to work on.
  • Doing – Tasks that we’re working on on a given day. We each choose tasks from the To Do section to work on here. The yellow stickies are sub-tasks of a pink sticky; we create them if we think we can’t get a whole pink sticky done in one day.
  • Done – All the stuff we’ve completed since we started this. It’s not important to see all the stickies here except maybe the orange ones because they contain research information we discovered along the way. Just because I like to earn stickers, I started giving us each a gold star every time we move a sticky into the Done section. The top row of stars is for Jonathan, and the bottom row is for me.
  • Registry (on the far left)¬† – All the stuff we want to buy and/or register for. Because the registry task is so expansive, we separated it into its own section and are selecting chunks of it to research/buy/register for every week. We move the things we plan to buy/register for into the To Do section when we commit to figure them out, just like any other task. We want to have the registry stuff figured out by mid-June, so it’s helpful to see how much of it is left rather than mixing it in with the rest of the backlog.


Everyone’s favorite part of scrum:

  • Planning meetings – On Sunday nights, Jonathan picks out the next chunk of stuff for us to move into the To Do section. We don’t really break the tasks down at this point; we just do that as necessary throughout the week.
  • Daily stand-ups – These are my favorite part because I get to distribute gold star stickers when we get things done :) Even though there are only two of us and we talk about what we’re doing throughout the day, it’s still helpful to try to meet at the task board every evening if only to remind ourselves of the stuff left to do that week. And, I can’t over-emphasize the value of star stickers.
  • Reviews – Since we don’t have any ex-utero stakeholders besides the two of us, we haven’t really had any reviews. I keep trying to invent excuses to invite people over so that we can demo our color scheme (one of my tasks last week) or something, but I haven’t figured out how to justify it yet.
  • Retrospectives – We haven’t done any of these either.

What’s missing

  • Story points – I keep demanding these, but Scrummaster hasn’t brought his planning poker cards home yet. I’m not sure how planning poker would work with two people, so I can only assume it would be perfectly efficient and awesome.
  • Burndown – Without story points, it’s hard to have a burndown. However, I don’t really think our living room decor is complete without a burndown chart.


  • Me – I keep insisting on making things pretty. For example, we spent all of a Saturday afternoon driving around looking for baby stickers to help clarify dependencies and deadlines on our stickies. I also spent an hour making the section labels for the chart and maybe another hour covering the blue painters’ tape with plain masking tape so that the blue wouldn’t clash with the rest of the living room. I know that some of our stakeholders don’t care about stuff like that, but I’m a stakeholder too!!
  • Goomba – He tries to knock down our stickies. I don’t think he understands that you have to do work to move the stickies.


  • Prior to May 13, we had done exactly 1 thing to get ready for the baby: visit Babies R Us and cry a bit when we got the list of things we needed to register for. Since May 13, when we started scrumming, we have:
    • Researched categories of childcare options and begun organizing our priorities
    • Researched and bought a crib and mattress
    • Selected two possible color schemes and marked the corresponding paint chips
    • Bought lots of nice maternity clothes
    • Talked to HR to learn about our parental benefits and get the necessary paperwork
    • Researched, bought, and took classes on a new camera and photography
    • Finished our wedding albums for our parents
    • Cleaned out an extra bedroom so we’d have a place to move all the non-baby stuff that’s currently inhabiting the nursery
    • Began incessantly checking craigslist for nursery furniture; I missed the best deal ever by less than a day, so now I’m afraid I’m greedy for an equally good deal
    • Registered for some stuff
    • Researched places to go on a small babymoon

This all translates into lots of gold stars, so I feel happy. Jonathan feels a little stressed because the task board highlights how much work there is left to do, but he’ll be the first to say that that’s a benefit of scrum, so I have to believe he’s happy on the inside.

About Sarah

10 years ago, I was a computer science student. 5 years ago, I taught kindergarten. 2 years ago, I trained teachers. Now, I'm a technical writer. I have thoughts about most of these things, but most likely I'll just write about neuroses and why I love Mr. Gatti's pizza. Which might be a neurosis.
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10 Responses to Baby Scrum!

  1. Ryan says:

    I think you are doing a simply terrific job with the Scrum, but I also like to believe that when the time comes I would use the Extreme Babying technique.

    P.S. Maybe Goomba should be the scrummaster.

    • Sarah says:

      If Goomba were scrummaster, he’d have more power to do what he wanted with the stickies…which I think would multiply his impedimentness.

  2. Laura says:

    Wow! Now I want a giant chart. Or maybe I don’t… I don’t think I want to know how many things I need to get done!

    I volunteer to be your reviewer for anything that can be reviewed via the internet! I can skype in to review. ;)

    • Sarah says:

      Yeah, the chart’s definitely a pro and a con in that regard, though I imagine that we would have started sensing how much was left to do. For me, when things are intangible, they’re more stressful, even if they’re kind of stressful when they ARE tangible. At any rate, if you want a sample list o’ stuff-to-do, I can share ours :)

      Maybe there will be things to review when we start working on the nursery. Or you can approve items on our registry :)

  3. Kirstin says:

    holy cow! i’ve never heard of scrum, but wow. enjoy this while you can b/c when the baby is here you won’t have time for scrumming anything! :)

  4. Laura says:

    How is the scrum coming along? Are you still working on it? I’m very curious!

    • Sarah says:

      Welllll…yes, we’re still working on it, but I’ve been waiting for our burndown chart to be a little more presentable before taking more pictures :) We got behind when we went on vacation, so even though we’re working at a good pace right now, we still have a lot of catching up to do. I have big plans to catch up this week while Jonathan’s out of town, so maybe we can post a better update next week :)

  5. Kerri says:

    Aw! I wanna scrum now! :D

  6. Pingback: Using Scrum For Organizing Your Life - Scrum Inc.

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