Hello! This will be my first blog post since starting here at Intranet Connections as the Software Architect just three weeks ago. Over the long weekend, I listened to a fantastic TED talk that I thought would be valuable to share on the agile methodology and agile planning.
A few weeks ago Rob Nikkel, our Lead Developer, blogged about details of how the agile process works in software development. It is a great post, so you should check it out. Given the depth that Rob detailed in his blog, I won’t go into any specific details about that except to point out that agile development is well suited to building software because inherently, it is an iterative process which is well matched to the iterative process software developers naturally tend to use when they write code.
Agile development also tightly couples the management of a project to the development process so that inevitable changes are easy to handle. This brings me back to the previously mentioned TED talk about how the agile methodology can be applied to many areas outside of the software industry and specifically to family life with the goal of reducing stress and helping to better manage the busy lifestyles we all have.
Many businesses are already realizing that agile is not just for software projects anymore and are now successfully implementing agile processes and agile planning into all kinds of projects. So the question is, if agile processes are so effective at work, why not also at home?
In software development, agile planning often revolves around daily meetings that communicate three items for all involved:
These meetings are generally very short and are intended to ensure everyone is on the same page. They also allow team members to help each other out when common problems are encountered.
Daily meetings are probably a bit much for most families, but a weekly meeting can be used to accomplish the same thing. The idea is to hold a twenty minute meeting, once per week, where each family member answers three slightly modified questions.
The first question allows family members to communicate schedules to one another and to allow for some basic agile planning. For example, if a teenage daughter has a group meeting for a school project she needs to be driven to, her Mom can find out about it during the weekly meeting rather than five minutes prior to the actual event. In addition to scheduling, it opens up channels of communication between parents and children about topics that may otherwise not be shared.
Questions two and three allow the family to create, modify or eliminate rules and expectations based on what is and what is not working. This allows children to be involved in deciding what chores each family member will be responsible for as well as what behaviours are expected. Rewards and punishments can also be discussed and set during the meeting with everyone’s input. These two questions are really the key to the process because it allows children (and adults) to make mistakes, learn from them, discuss them at the weekly meeting and make the appropriate changes for the following week. Because there is a meeting every week, nothing that isn’t working can get too far off course without being corrected.
The other key point in applying agile planning to family life, the use of a whiteboard and sticky notes to keep track of the results of each meeting. Daily chores for each family member are also placed here and they then be checked off as completed. A bonus to this technique is that the presenter found that kids love checking things off and are much more likely to do their chores just so they can check them off. The point is that, when it comes to children, not to underestimate the value of a checkbox!
Agile works for software because software projects are often constantly in a state of flux: requirements, goals , technologies and team members may all change during the life of a project. Agile expects this and provides a process to handle it. Family life is similar in this respect, schedules change, kids grow up, and every week is different from the one before. If no process exists to deal with all this change, people naturally get frustrated and stressed which only makes things worse. An agile approach can provide a simple and effective solution for anyone’s busy family life.
Well, there it is, my first blog post for Intranet Connections. I hope this agile planning process for families will be a tool that is useful to you and your family as well as your business. You can check out the full version of the TED talk here for a more detailed description of how this might work.