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How to Use Agile at Home

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Agile is not meant only for software development. People implement Agile in their personal lives too. Steve Ostermiller, Agile coach at Deseret Digital Media, shared his experience of implementing Agile at his home, in his blog.

Agile is not meant only for software development. People implement Agile practices in their personal lives too. Steve Ostermiller, Agile coach at Deseret Digital Media, shared his experience of implementing Agile at his home, in his blog.

Maritza van den Heuvel, lead, learning, monitoring and evaluation at Praekelt Foundation shared her experience of using kanban in his family, in her blog.

My first experiment with our kids went really well, and using a variety of kanban boards has become an integral part of our lives since then. We’ve also successfully combined kanban boards with other techniques like checklists, calendars and the all-important reward system. ... I haven’t only used agile and lean principles to help me manage our kids’ lives. I use them for my own well- being (read: sanity) and to improve communication as a whole in our family. From planning our financial priorities to communicating personal goals and staying in touch with extended family, to trying to establish an exercise regime for myself, we’ve done it all. We’ve even planned and organized Christmas with great fun using kanban!

Steve uses transparency to inspect and adapt his own household situation. He has implemented Scrum at his home. He experienced following benefits:

  • Transparency of what each person wants and does
  • Ownership of household decisions and projects
  • Structured inspect-and-adapt tools and habits
  • Rhythm to our days and weeks
  • Clear expectations among all family members (not just parent-child, but also sibling-sibling)
  • Collaboration
  • Patience for our own and each other's mistakes
  • Prioritization resists the urge to do everything all at once
  • Decisiveness

Steve created visual work flow which revealed that his family is working on too many things at once. After a few attempts at prioritizing family projects, he finally had a deeper discussion about his family budget.

I sat down with our children one night and wrote the number of dollars I make in a month on a whiteboard. I then wrote the number of dollars we pay for our mortgage, followed by our car payments and our various budget line items. I then subtracted all those amounts from my income to show what was left at the end of each month. I circled that number and went to the other side of the board to start a different list. The new list contained all the big things that we wanted to do: vacation to Hawaii, Disney World, and Europe; complete major household projects; pay for college and marriages; and save for rainy days and retirement. Next to each of those, we estimated the amounts we would need to put aside each month in order to attain each of the goals independently. I added all the monthly amounts and subtracted the sum from the circled amount from the first list. This revealed a substantial number of dollars -- dollars we didn't have each month to work toward each of those goals all at the same time.

Steve mentioned that he breaks down his savings goals (i.e., vision and road map) into chunks (i.e., releases) and working on small, incremental progress each week (i.e., sprints) towards these financial goals. He is exploring ways of freeing up more income each month (i.e., iterating, inspecting, adapting).

Scrum's simplicity and exposure has helped us be more effective and avoid the delusion that we can do everything all at once. We prefer focus. I like that my children are learning to think that way, and I feel less stressed knowing we don't have to boil the ocean. I get better sleep at night knowing we're working, playing and living smarter.

Martin Lapointe, Senior Agile Program Coach at Yellow Pages, experimented scrum in his family. He shared his experience in his blog.

We had never seen this much work get done so fast, with so much happiness, ease, understanding and visibility!

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Community comments

  • I say yes!

    by Leonie Bosch,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I am involved with software developers on a daily basis, and we all find the form of Scrum / Kanban that we've developed a great help. As soon as we got started with these methods, I brought them home to manage the uneven spread of tasks among all on our 'family team'. Of course, it's nowhere near as strict nor complex as the workflow we build at the offices, but the point is - it does work. It's easy to explain, fun to follow, and I think it also brings us more together, as a family. I highly recommend doing some follow-up reading here: Very helpful, also.

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