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The early benefits of the Agile Family

Matthew Nuzum —  — 1 Comment

In the summer of 2013 a TED talk started making its way around the Internet discussing how to apply agile project management practices to the family. Then a Des Moines local agile coach, Kristin Runyan put the idea into action and blogged about it. This December, a coworker reported how he had seen benefits of this idea.

The timing of the December talk coincided nicely with some thoughts I had. For one, my wife and I have been frustrated with our 12 year old son’s lack of interest in doing the things he was supposed to do. Secondly, at work we completed a team member “work style evaluation,” essentially a personality test, and it caused me to realize that I think my son has a different personality and work style than either me or my wife.

We felt that this “agile family” method may work for us.

We are not quite one week into it, and I have to say that our early suspicions seem to be true. For me, one of the biggest benefits will be the weekly retro where the kids get to help decide what we’ll do differently next week. We’ve had only one, so its too early to tell what is going to happen with that.

However, there is one clear benefit for my son so far – he seems to do much better when he is self directed than if he is management directed.

I remember years ago a psychologist on the radio talking about personality types, and how understanding the differences changed the drive-up fast food experience. There is a type of personality that rebels a little inside if you say something like “pull forward to the window” or even “please pull forward to the window.”

However, if you simply say “you can get your food at the window” then it changes from giving them orders to giving them a decision. “Do I want the food I just ordered? If so, then I should pull forward. Do I have to pull forward? No, but I’m hungry and I just ordered, so here I go.”

I think this dovetails nicely with the concept that the carrot works better than the stick. In either case, it connects perfectly with my son.

We now have a kanban board in our kitchen. Yes, really. My son is extremely dutiful about checking each day, ensuring that the last thing he does before heading to bed is to put his phone on the charger, something he would never do and then complain because it was dead when he wanted it.

We use the kanban to help us remember what to do, but to also reward each other. We do this with points. Each day you complete your todo lane you get a point. Each week you complete your weekly tasks you get a point. You can trade points for money and privileges. For example, going to the movies for the whole family is 75 points (and family members can pool points), bringing a friend costs 15 extra points.

Each week we decide something to work on. The kids get to help decide. This week we’re working on waking up on time (100% success so far) and no screaming, even the parents (less than 100% success, but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day).

I’m looking forward to see how this plays out.

Matthew Nuzum

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Web guy, big thinker, loves to talk and write. Front end web, mobile and UX developer for John Deere ISG. My projects: @dsmwebgeeks @tekrs @squaretap ✝
  • Kristin Runyan

    I love this! It’s funny how so many families struggle with the same issues….getting phones on chargers is a big deal at our house too! I love the Kanban board in the kitchen. We have a pseudo-board upstairs but it isn’t getting much use, so I am going to get something started downstairs. Thanks for the tip!