Category Archives: Personal

Planning Poker for Chores

We are an Agile family. Some of our processes work better than others, in typical Agile fashion, but we aspire to continously learn and improve.  Our latest family problem is chores. We have three teenagers and determining what is fair and finding a common “definition of done” is quite challenging, filled with all kinds of wonderful teenage angst. PlanningPoker Our activities tonight are attempting to bring clarity.

Step 1: Define chores with a Definition of Done

First, we sat down with index cards and listed out the chores, one per page. Truthfully, I did this mostly on my own but I read them all to the kids to make sure they agreed.

The final list was as follows:

  1. Empty kitchen trash and take out recycling whenever full (2)
  2. Empty all trash cans, take trash to curb on Tuesday morning, retrieve Tuesday night (1)
  3. Vacuum tile floors upstairs – baths and laundry room (we have a dog that sheds) twice a week (5)
  4. Vacuum upstairs carpets once a week (8)
  5. Vacuum downstairs floors once a week (8)
  6. Empty full dishwasher whenever clean (5)
  7. Clean off counters, tables, put shoes in closets nightly (5)
  8. Do dinner dishes and put away left-overs nightly, not pots and pans (8)
  9. Wash pots and pans, dry them and put them away by 9:00 a.m. the next morning (13)

Lessons from an Ironman

My husband completed his first Ironman in Panama City, Florida. Something remarkable happened during the race and it makes me ponder similar implications in the work place. My husband’s watch broke. Actually, his second watch broke. The first one was kicked off and now sits on the ocean floor of the Gulf of Mexico. The second watch went black 90 minutes into the bike ride. So here he is, doing his first Ironman and he has virtually no ability to pace himself. The only way that he can ‘tell time’ is to watch the path of the sun and the only way he knows his relative position is to pass a mile marker, gauge his approximate speed and use that information to make decisions about nutrition and his pace.ironman2

As I am sure you can imagine, Ironman races are incredibly difficult. It is a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike following by a 26.2 mile run (a full marathon). Many well-experienced athletes have made the mistake of going too hard in the swim or the bike, only to find that their body doesn’t have enough energy left to finish the run. This is a very real risk and one that should not be taken lightly. So how do you, as a first time Ironman, pace yourself on the bike when you have no timepiece? Well, you do your best. And you listen to your body. And guess. And maybe pray a bit.

5 Tips for a successful cross country move

I recently accepted a job in San Diego, CA.  Awesome, right?  That is 1,733 mile from my current home in Waukee, Iowa (a suburb of Des Moines).  This should be a piece of cake. The weather is better – beaches, oceans, the Zoo.  It is a great opportunity and I know that we will be happy here.  After all, we have done this before.  In 2010, we moved from Austin, TX to Waukee, Iowa which is a distance of 927 miles, for those keeping score.  So why is this so hard? Why do we have moments when we feel like the family is coming apart at the seams?  We have learned a few things along the way so here are our 5 tips for making a cross country move a success.

Source: Google Maps

Source: Google Maps

1. It’s about the family

The greatest job in the world cannot make up for an unhappy spouse and kids.  Make sure they are invested in and excited about the move.  Every city has very cool features – the corn mazes in Iowa are amazing!  Find out what is special about your new destination and celebrate it.

Also remember how important your spouse is.  Moves are often easier on the working spouse as they have an instant community at the office, and the kids will adapt to their new friends at school. It’s critically important that the “support” spouse has a support system of their own.  Neglect that piece of the puzzle and ‘successful’ may not be the word used to describe the move.

2. It’s about the message

When it comes to getting the family excited, choose your words carefully.  If you say to the kids ‘I know you have great friends here and I am sorry that you have to leave them,’ you are setting a tone.  If you say ‘This place is so cool.  You won’t believe all of the activities and awesome adventures we are going to have,’ then you are leading with positivity and this can make a huge difference in the perception of the kids – especially those in elementary school.

Lessons from an Author

The fact that I can title this blog “Lessons from an Author” is both amazing and surreal.  You see, my first book was just published so I guess I can officially say that I am an author.  (Buy it here!) Holding the book in my hands led me to reflect on the last 18 months and the journey that my co-author, Sondra Ashmore, and I have been on.  For what they are worth, here are the lessons that I have learned along the way.cover

Persistence Required

When writing a book, or doing any meaningful and challenging undertaking, you must have persistence.  This is obvious, I know, but let me share the backstory.  There were two chapter in our Agile textbook that were particularly difficult – the chapter on roles and the one on culture.  Not that we didn’t have plenty of content, that was never the problem.  It was trying to figure out a way to convey the information in a logical and cohesive fashion.  Each chapter was re-written nearly from scratch three times.  By the time you are writing a chapter for the third time, it is easy to get frustrated, depressed, aggravated, annoyed (can you tell that the memories are still fresh??) and a whole host of other emotions.  This is when you need someone to pull you back to the surface.  In my case, I was lucky to have Sondra.  In my time of doubt, Sondra reminded me that this is the time and circumstances that separates published authors from those with unpublished work sitting in a drawer.  It is persistence.  Pure and simple.  There are lots of great writers out there.  But persistence is the distinguishing trait for true authors.

Agile and Product Mgmt – Year in Review

I committed this year to write 52 blogs and I did it!  There are 16 on my previous employers website and 36 on www.runyanconsulting.com.  As I look back and review and reflect on the posts, here are my favorites.

Product Management Blogs

I am very passionate about Product Management and I think it is sometimes an undervalued skill set.  Where I have a chance, I always try to share the strategic and practical benefits that come from having great product management resources.  This year, I wrote a five part series about how to Launch a Product and recently completed a 3 part series on how to sunset or decommission a product.

Image Source: http://www.greenbiz.com/

Image Source: http://www.greenbiz.com/

 

Agile Blogs

I am equally passionate about Agile because I have seen how it can improve people’s job satisfaction and raise the level of productivity and effectiveness for the whole organization.  This category was harder to choose my favorites, so I came up with four.  First, there was a series on creating an Agile Culture and what it really means for management.  This series generated some controversy, which I love because it means we are talking about important things.  Next, I am surprised that many organizations are not familiar with Fist of Five.  We use the Agile technique all the time and it is a difference maker in driving productive conversations.  Many organizations also  struggle with how to incorporate Agile into the day-to-day business, so I offered three options for incorporating bugs and maintenance into your Agile teams.  Finally, I am a big believer in the sacredness of the Sprint and I believe that organizations that are disciplined enough to honor a sprint commitment will typically be more successful than those who are loosey-goosey with the guidelines.

Other

Finally, I care deeply about leadership and family so some of my blogs were dedicated to those topics.  One that has been particularly fun is documenting our evolution to an Agile Family.  We have learned (and laughed) a lot together.  Also, I spent some time really thinking about Innovation and what drives an innovative spirit in some people but not others.  This particular blog might be my favorite of the year.

I hope you have enjoyed some of these blogs and maybe learned something new.  I know that I have learned with each post and I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue growing and exploring new ideas.  What is in store for 2014?  Who knows for sure, but it is going to be a great year!

 

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.

The Agile Family

As you can tell, I am a bit of a nut about Agile.  There are so many things about it that I appreciate and now I have something new to add to the list.  We were told about a TED talk by Brue Feiler regarding an Agile Family and I had to watch it.  Following Bruce’s direction, we started our own Agile movement on Sunday night and since then three amazing things have happened.

First, let me share our dynamics.  We have two daughters, 11 and 12.  They are only one grade apart in school and they do everything together – including fight.  We are a loving, caring, sarcastic and funny family who definitely has moments of chaos and meltdowns.  During the school year, my least favorite time of day is just before bedtime.  Since my husband is a stay-at-home Dad, I feel like it is my responsibility to get my little angels tucked in every night.  Let me tell you – shear torture.  They would stall and play and not do what I asked and whine and stall.  You get the picture.  It got so bad we even nicknamed the little one “Delay Fish” from Dory’s character in Finding Nemo.

So as I watched Bruce’s TED talk, I thought – the nighttime ritual is what I want to change.  We started our first family meeting on Sunday with each girl making a list of what they need Agile_Checklistto accomplish before going to bed.  It includes showers, teeth brushing, finding and charging your cell phone and more.  I added some of the items that annoy me – like hang up your towel.  We then turned their notes into a checklist and taped it to the mirror in their bathroom.

We then said ‘what is something that doesn’t work in our family right now?’  The girls said (in their own words) that we weren’t good at respecting each other’s personal space.  Then we defined what that meant and created a Working Agreement. (1) Leave someone’s room when asked. (2) Have their permission to use something of theirs and (3) enter someone’s room only when you have permission.  Pretty reasonable.  We then asked what the punishment would be for someone who violated this agreement.  The girls agreed on the loss of TV on Saturday.

“Stay-at-Home Dad” – Making it work

We have some friends who are contemplating the husband/father quitting work to be a stay-at-home dad and care for the kids.  My husband and I have had this arrangement since 2008 and it has been wonderful for our family.  Our children are happier, our marriage is stronger and we enjoy each other much more than we could when we were a two income family with loads of stress and no free time.

IronmanBut this arrangement isn’t for everyone and if the benefits don’t outweigh the costs (loss of a second income is a big deal!) then it can cause far greater problems.  Why does our situation work so well for us?  We think it boils down to four key points.

1. His job is to support me – those are his words, not mine.  If that means cancelling a poker game because I have to go out of town – no problem.  If I have to miss family dinner because an out of town exec wants an evening meeting – no problem.  If he has two sick, grumpy kids crying for their mom, he handles it.  The complete ownership on his part creates a guilt-free environment for me so I can focus on maximizing my opportunities and, hopefully, our income.