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)

No doubt your list could be different based on the age of your kids and the issues in your household.  The last one is so specific because our kids will leave a casserole pan out “to soak” for a week, if they can get away with it.

At first, they thought “9 tasks / 3 kids = 3 each.”  But that doesn’t take into account estimating the work.

Step 2: Planning Poker

I took a regular deck of cards and gave each child an Ace, 2, 3, 5, 8 and a King for 13.  Those of you that play Planning Poker in Scrum will recognize the Fibonacci Sequence. My 7th grader just happens to be learning about that in school – great reinforcement of a mathematical concept.  We took each task, one at a time, and voted on the level of difficulty.  What was interesting about this exercise is the one who was consistently lower than their siblings is far and away the laziest of the three. Curious that she identified tasks as easier, though she never does them.  When we were finished, all 9 tasks added up to 55 points.  The points allocated to each task are listed in parenthesis above.

Step 3: Balancing the Load

I went through each task and its score and came up with a balance of 18, 18 and 19.  One of the 18 pointers is only 2 tasks but it includes the only 13 in the lot.  Now that the task loads are defined, we assigned each set to a kid and those are their responsibilities for the week. A new week will begin every Monday morning and we will rotate each child to the next task list.  That way they have all weekend to deliver on their commitments.  We also set the loose rule that if you complain or try and mess with the system, you have to do everyone’s chores for the remainder of the week.  I doubt that will stick but it’s a great threat.

Step 4: Inspect and Adapt

We don’t have the data yet to determine if this is a workable plan, but in true Agile fashion, we will inspect and adapt.  I will write a follow-up blog in one month reporting on our successes and failures.  Until then, wish me luck!

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

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