Agile away your DIY fears

I recently needed to tackle a small but tricky DIY project in my kitchen. I have fairly low DIY skills, so I needed a way to be sure it would work before I made a mess that might be expensive to fix.

As I’m reading “SPRINT” (a guide to Agile design) I decided prototyping might help.

Agile and the SPRINT method is all about delivering a small product early on, so you can test and get feedback.

Here’s how it improved my DIY activity:

1) Research for potential solutions

YouTube has plenty of DIY videos, so I spent an hour watching other people making mistakes and saying what worked best for them. It’s good to learn fast from experts and seeing their ‘test and learn’ experiences. I identified a possible solution.

2) Test away from the ‘live’ kitchen

I set up a test of what I wanted to achieve in the garage (away from the live and unforgiving arena of the kitchen).

The test failed. That’s good. That’s why you test stuff. I also learned from doing the test and become a little more proficient in the process. Testing costs more (time, materials, effort) but saves on kitchen damage and that keeps kitchen users happy.

Back to research – let’s try another option, I ordered some more parts. Try again, repeat in test. This time – success!

3) User sign off

Although garage test 2 seemed successful, I took the time to explain and show it to my partner/ fellow kitchen user.

The test became a small demo. Here’s how it will probably work. Does this work for you? It was well recieved. Now we had technical and user sign off! 😊

4) Launch (on production)

In the digital world, a frequent criticism is that Test doesn’t match Production.

It turns out the same is true of DIY, the safety of working on the garage workbench is not identical to the challeges of assembly on a wall over a kitchen sink. However after some tricky maneuvers (things take longer in Production and is never as simple as an artificial test area) the solution did go live.

5) User sign off in Production

Its hard to roll back a physical fixing in your kitchen, compared to a web page so in some ways there is no ‘rollback’ for DIY.

To prevent downtime I did a parallel run, obtained sign and then dismantled the previous solution.

6) What did I learn?

Although this was quite a small project, having a test environment removed the sheer inconvenience of failing in production. It also allowed for skilling up and gaining enough experience to get the project over the line.

It took longer, and this was pointed out by the user 🙂 but it delivered a cleaner result and improved final live sign-off.

I’ll definately use an agile / test based approach to other activities. Maybe there is a gap in the market for a DIY design sprint at your local hardware store.