By Mark C. Layton

A home can be defined, planned, estimated, and built using scrum. The first meeting with the builder is to learn about the type of home that you’re looking for (such features as the number of bedrooms, type of property, and number of garages), the quality of finishes and flooring, the landscaping, the approximate amount you want to spend, and your time frame.

This gives the builder a high-level understanding of what you’re looking for (the vision and roadmap). It takes about an hour.

Over the next several weeks following the initial planning meeting, buyers meet with an architect to get more specific about plans such as the desired room layouts, floors, basement, lot placement, flooring, and cabinetry. Design elements such as colors, appliances, and fixtures are not yet selected. What does get decided is what’s needed to estimate the cost of the house and provide a blueprint and elevation. These are the higher-risk items that are difficult and most expensive to change later (the product backlog).

From that point, it’s expected that the less risky things will change later, so those decisions are deferred until the last responsible moment. Potential risks are discussed, however, like surprises that might be found at groundbreaking.

With the blueprint comes a budget, which breaks out the details sufficiently for the builder to factor in profit and for the buyer to see each feature of the house factored in that they care about when the house is finished (that is, user stories).

The budget for each feature, like cabinets, is based on the description given by the buyer of what they want from the builder at the beginning. Within that budget, when it comes time to install the cabinets, the buyer gets to choose at that time exactly what they want. This is where trade-offs can be made, or color coordination can take place when looking at the actual home rather than pictures in a brochure in an office. Although a certain quality of wood may have sounded great during planning, the buyer may change their mind and desire a less expensive option and use the savings to put toward something else, or simply finance less at closing because of the savings.

Scrum in construction is real, it’s becoming common, and its benefits are just as strong as in other industries, such as software. While this is one example, many more exist. Give it a try, and perhaps yours will be the next success story.