Agile Family – A Recap

We became an “Agile Family” in 2013 and I first blogged about it in August. Since then, we have had a number of family meetings and we have learned some very interesting things along the way.  Here is a recap of our findings.

1. Face-to-face collaboration matters.

Those of you who are familiar with Agile and its principles know that face-to-face communication and frequent opportunities to Runyan_Familycollaborate are essential to Agile.  Turns out, the same is true with the family.  When we asked the retrospective-type question “What do you want to do more of?” our tween daughters (ages 11 and 12) said more family activities.  What?!? Our kids are at the age of boyfriends and texting and thinking parents are uncool and yet — they want to spend more time with us.  And when we inquired about the types of activities, it wasn’t watching TV or playing video games.  It was electronics-free hiking and bowling and ice skating.  You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that, but since then, we have become closer as a family – as a team.

2. Sometimes self-organizing teams need a WTF moment.

In the Agile world, we want teams to self-organize and we want them to take ownership of their work and really commit to the outcomes.  Sometimes before that can happen, the group needs to hit bottom.  In our house, hitting bottom led to a “What the Ferret?” moment.  We have had many (many!) conversations about ferret poop in our household.  We have two ferrets and I don’t know what they eat or how their digestive systems work but ohmygoodness, they poop a lot.  Over several Agile family meetings, we discussed strategies and action plans for dealing with the poop.  We had schedules and checklists and reminders and still – we are discussing ferret poop at every Agile family meeting.  Finally, one night, Mommy (aka me) lost her cool and had the WTF moment.  The hammer came down and I said that the ferret poop situation needs to be resolved or the ferrets will be given away.  There were crocodile tears at the table and I even got the ‘whoa, settle down’ look from my husband.  But I was at wits end, and frankly, I wasn’t bluffing.  Since then, the situation has improved.  And whenever one of my beautiful daughters suggests that it isn’t her turn or it isn’t fair – Mommy just says “Are we really going to discuss this?” and magically the situation is sorted.

Honestly, the same is often true at work.  Self-organizing teams need to know that it isn’t optional and it isn’t going away before they fully engage.  Sometimes it takes a dark moment to get the team to pull together and fix the problem.

 3. Kudos make a difference

We alternate who runs our Agile Family meeting and we try and mix up the questions that we ask so it doesn’t get stale.  One night, the question was: “Who in the family did something nice for you this week?”  Each person chose a family member and stated what they did and why that was helpful or meaningful to the speaker.  This discussion got us out of our traditional roles and chores and we focused on what it means to be a family and to appreciate one another and not take each other for granted.  It was a magical moment and it made the frustrations and annoyances fade into appreciation.  I think the same is true with teams at work.  Sometimes we get so aggravated with someone else that it is easy to forget all of the wonderful things that are contributed every day.  Taking a moment to express gratitude strengthens relationships and just makes everything better.

Are we the perfect family?  That would be “no.”  As I look at my dirty house with my dirty kids and a To Do list as long as my arm, I know we have a ways to go.  But Agile has helped us.  We are closer, more appreciative, more empowered and we are talking about important things as a family.  And that is worth celebrating!


To learn more, please reference the book Change, Inc.: An Agile Fable of Transformation available on

3 Responses to Agile Family – A Recap

  1. Melissa Margraf says:

    Love this! Where do I find out more?!

  2. Houda says:

    This is great, We do use agile at home too, mostly for homework time with our 3 kids. Agile and kanban helped my family learn how to be organized and kids take full ownership of their tasks. I blog about it

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