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Using agile in your own family with children

We have all been there. Rushed mornings when it is a surprise to everyone that school backpacks must be packed.

Chaotic evening routines where the hours go by in a haze of dinner prep, homework, bedtime, etc., only to realize, at 11 pm, that there was a book report due tomorrow!

A family is a sophisticated team, trying to get a whole lot done and meeting a new challenge every single day.

The responsibility of running a family smoothly and in an organized way is no easy task. With constantly changing schedules, never-ending chores, and constant expectations from children, family, and society, it is no wonder that parents burn out.

In my work as an Agile Coach, I face challenges daily along with my team.

The Agile Methodology has given us the tools we need to create self-organized and productive teams that value honest feedback, and each team member is accountable for their work. Isn't this something all of us would love to have in our families as well?

This got me thinking about the various ways that we can use Scrum and Agile ceremonies in our daily family lives. Here is what I came up with.

Planning a big family event

In Agile software projects, we break down large and sophisticated features and products into small, actionable tasks that can be achieved quickly. Ideally, each task should take about a day to get done.

We then track each task efficiently and transparently by using a team wall.

This concept could be used for family events as well.

Imagine a big family event. This could be a big move, an upcoming vacation, a family function or party, an upcoming wedding, etc. Any activity that involves loads of small little tasks that need to get done can be managed using a team wall.

Families could follow these steps to make this event, as smooth, and well organized as possible:

Step 1: Come together as a family and create a backlog of all the tasks that need to be done before the event. This could be done on a coffee table, dining table, or anywhere where you have a large surface to do step 2.

Step 2: Write down each task on little sticky notes (one task per note) and put it up on a wall or surface.

Step 3: Prioritize each task and stick the most important or urgent tasks right at the top of the list.

Step 4: Create three columns on the surface: To-Do, Doing, Done. Add all the items to the To-Do column.

Step 5: Now, create smaller prompts or sticky notes with each family member's name on it.

Step 6: Now that you have your event wall set up, encourage each family member to come forward and pick a task they would like to work on first. Move that task to the 'Doing' column, and stick the member's name next to it. It is best only to pick one job at a time, get it done, and move onto the next.

Step 7: Over the next few days and weeks, each family member will then move the task that they are working on to the "Done" column, and pick a new task, until all of the tasks are done.

Family daily scrums

I would also encourage you to revisit this task wall every single day, ideally at the beginning of the day, and have a family stand up in front of the event wall.

Agile teams almost always start their workday with a daily stand up in front of their task wall to discuss their goals for the day, blockers, team activities, etc.

Here you can discuss all the tasks that each member is working on for that day, and any blockers or issues they might be facing.

It is also a time to celebrate the tasks that are done, and encourage each other, or show appreciation, and talk about how everyone is feeling that day.

Morning boards

With little kids, you could also have a morning board set up to discuss the weather, how they are feeling that day, a day countdown to a big event like a birthday or a holiday, etc. This is quite similar to the circle time that you would have in a Montessori school and is an enjoyable and engaging activity for everyone to start their day.

Family chore wall

Agile teams usually have a team task wall, where pending tasks are put up, and team members self assign tasks to themselves regularly. Everyone can see what everyone else is working on.

Even if you do not have a big event coming up, it can be useful and fun to set up a family chore wall.

This could be a daily or weekly chore wall, where each family member has chores assigned, which are moved to a To-Do column when a chore is due, and moved to Done when that chore is done.

The idea is that no one needs to be asked to do anything. If there is a set of well-defined tasks, and everyone is aware of expectations from each member of the family, then everyone gets their jobs done.

It is an excellent way to introduce the concept of responsibility and accountability to young children.

Family retrospectives and weekly meetings

Continuous and relevant feedback is one of the cornerstones of Agile methodology.

Teams get together once a week or two weeks and talk about what went well, what didn't and what are the changes and improvements they would like to make in the future.

Everyone is responsible for driving the team forward.

This same concept can be used by families as well. A good way would be to have a Sunday night family retrospective where everyone gets together to discuss how things are going, and what things they would like to change.

You could also discuss events of the past week and any new learnings, and discuss the upcoming week as well.

Is there any significant school or sports events coming up? Will we have guests or visitors this week? What changes do we need to make in our evening routine? Is there anything that needs to be repaired around the house? Who can take charge of that? These are things that can be discussed in this meeting.

And if there is ice cream involved, no one would complain!

I hope you have found this useful and would give some of these strategies a try in your family.

I would love to know if you already use some of these strategies and if you would like to add to my list here.

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