My inspiration for this blog came from a totally unexpected side, when I walked into the room of my 17 year old daughter. For those that have kids in that age, you know it is extremely hard to get them to like, let alone copy, anything you like or do. So imagine my surprise when I walked into her room and from the corner of my eye, I saw a number of post-its on her desk, layed out in the form of a scrum board. The moment she saw me looking, the post-its were wiped of the table quickly, denying that it had anything even vaguely to do with Agile. Thinking about this, I realized the over time we had adopted more and more the Agile mindset in the family due to the work I do as an Agile coach with Prowareness. This has, in some aspects, taken my family from good to great and I would like to share some of that with you.
We have a big family with 4 kids at home (9, 10, 17 and 18) and one (26) with my grandson (6) running in now and then. Therefore with us change is the only constant factor in our household. I for instance never know if there are 4 or 10 people having dinner until I’m putting the food on the table, so Agility seems to fit very well in this setting. So what has been happening? First of all I have been using my kids as Guinee pigs for trying out Agile games, work formats, energizers and so on, unknowingly and unintentionally changing them to have an Agile mindset. Secondly I have slowly introduced various kinds of Agile and lean practices to create more transparency on workload, get the work done more effectively and just have more fun doing boring stuff. Below I have listed 6 things that came to mind when thinking about this.
- Change takes a long time, but will happen and stick, if you are persistent in approaching things in an Agile way and keep giving the right example. An example is the large weekstart board we have the hall, where everything is recorded for that the coming week. It took more than a year of updating for myself, without anyone caring, before others started using it. Now I regularly have 2 annoyed little boys from 9 and 10 years old telling me that I did not update the board in time or tried to skip the week start. My daughter gets into all states, if the board is not updated with my work schedule. Based on this she knows when she needs to cook for instance.
- Given the right stimulation and challenge people start to self organise and show commitment. If you are a parent you might recognize the situation, were you want to go to the beach on Sunday and the parent need to get up 2 hours earlier to get everything packed up, the dishes and 20 other jobs done before you can go. One day I had enough and started putting stickies with chores on the kitchen door on a Sunday morning and started doing them one by one. After some time the kids started asking how long before we go. I told them: “if the stickies are gone from to-do to done, we can go. If you help it will go faster. For me it makes no difference, because I do not want to go anywhere, you do”. We did not go anywhere that day. Now we are at the point when I start putting stickies on the kitchen door, all come running pick up the responsibility, working together to get rid of the post-its as fast as possible. Another example is our ‘hackathons’. We live on a farm and there is often a lot of work. If some large and not fun job that need to be done, but never happen, I organize a sort of ‘hackathons’. This is where we pick a job together and everybody helps out that day. We make it a fun day and at the end we all go out for any dinner they want. Condition is that we all finish the job together.
- Show that it works and others will follow. I organize my work in the office and at home with kanban boards and if it is not on there, it does not exist for me. I’m pretty busy and with a large family and a farm there is always more work than time, so I prioritize. It did not take long for the rest of the family to find out that the only way to get me to fix a tire or go shopping was to put it on the backlog. My daughter has found a good position as a (slightly biased) Product Owner, making sure the most important things are on top, with the benefit of sneaking in a personal priority now and then. It is funny to see my daughter finding it so useful, that she is using it by herself secretly and my husband has picked it up too, also in his work.
- Gamification motivates. I personally do not like chasing people to do stuff and with a number of kids running around, you end up doing a lot of that. So my solution is to gamify the work. We use Habitica, an online game that has as goal to increase the level of your avatar and your money by doing real life chores. Not doing your chores means losing lives, money and equipment. There is a fierce competition between my kids (unfortunately my husband feels less motivated by competition) to be the highest ranking in the game. Benefits for me are that I do not have to chase anybody anymore and everybody not only does their chores with pleasure. They also regularly ask for more chores in order to level up faster and that is a parents dream, right? With the money from the game they can buy half their pocket money from me and there are other rewards for reaching certain levels. The game is much more complex than I have room to describe here. It has options like guilds, group challenges, warrior types and many more options. If you are interested in this free game, you can check it out at http://www.habitica.com or mail me for more information on how to play with this in your job or at home.
- If it works on children, it works everywhere. The best test group for anything I want to try in a training is my family. This goes for games, but also for explaining something (using metaphors) or trying workshop formats. They love games and I still remember the marshmallow game. This left some mental scars with my oldest son of 18, being crushed by his brothers of 9 and 10. They also often give me many ideas as children do not think in boxes. It is great that my kids think I have the coolest job in the world, folding paper airplanes and playing with marshmallows in my trainings. They love to help me craft games just for the fun of the crafting, work becomes fun for us all this way.
- Agile is not only for IT. Agile is a mindset and can be practiced in many different ways, from IT teams to families. It is not the solution to everything, but a toolbox that often can bring benefits and increases fun in the job.
For me it was fun taking you along on a little bit different way of getting from good to great by using Agile. I always look forward to getting in contact with you, so give me a call or send me an email, if you like to exchange thoughts or ideas.
Hanneke Gieles (firstname.lastname@example.org, 06-55494201)