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.

Finally at the Family Meeting, we asked if there was anything else that needed to be discussed.  That’s when something remarkable happened.  Our soon-to-be 6th grader is extremely anxious about starting middle school.  She peppered her soon-to-be 7th grade sister with questions that were patiently answered.  The girls probably talked for 20 minutes without my husband or me saying a word.  It was magical to see them being supportive and truly caring for each other without our oversight.

The meeting adjourned and we started the new processes and waited curiously to see how things would go.  This morning, I heard a scream.  I ran to inspect the situation and our eldest was crying because she had been slapped by her little sister.  What happened?  It seems that eldest was in youngest’s room.  Youngest asked her to leave and she didn’t so youngest slapped her.  Hmmm.  This is exactly what our working agreement about personal space was designed to deal with.  Eldest violated the agreement by not leaving when asked.  Youngest didn’t respond appropriately (hitting is never okay) so both broke the rules and both will lose TV on Saturday.  No argument, no “but Mom”, no rebuttal.  The rule was clear, designed by them for them and the punishment was determined in advance.  That worked out quite well.

Then tonight, I had to walk the dog while the girls were starting their bedtime ritual.  School starts in the morning, so this is a big night in our house.  I returned expecting to hear chaos or at least some drama.  My husband met me at the door.  One daughter was through her checklist and reading in bed.  The other one was just finishing up.  I had to do precisely nothing.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I had to go and kiss them good night.

This Agile Family thing is really working out for us and we haven’t even finished a sprint!  I can’t wait to see how our family iterates and engages in a cycle of continuous improvements.


3 Responses to The Agile Family

  1. […] 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 […]

  2. […] discussing how to apply agile project management practices to the family. Then a Des Moines local agile coach, Kristin Runyan put the idea into action and blogged about it. This December, a coworker reported how he had seen […]

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