Scrum for Families


Family Management / Sunday, July 28th, 2019

What is Scrum and what does it have to do with families? From the Scrum Guide:

“Scrum is a process framework that has been used to manage work on complex products since the early 1990s. Scrum is not a process, technique, or definitive method. Rather, it is a framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques. Scrum makes clear the relative efficacy of your product management and work techniques so that you can continuously improve the product, the team, and the working environment.”

I first heard of adopting Scum process framework in a family context at my own work. My first thoughts were “…interesting, but really? Applying software engineering framework to family life.” But this is a thing, there are even books and articles written on the subject.

I really enjoy all aspects of what Scrum brings to my work environment and I am fascinated as to how this could be adapted to family life. I am hoping the following can be true for Scrum and families:

“Scrum makes clear the relative effectiveness of your family management and family rituals so that you can continuously improve the family, the members, and home life.”

I have tried this with my own family and started with a retro (see section below on retro’s). We benefited from the first couple of retro’s but for various reasons we are not continuing with it (for now). Doesn’t mean we won’t try again.

Therefore I will be covering the main points on how I would approach family Scrum in theory and in it’s simplest form. As I mentioned I really haven’t had the chance to implement in practice but would love to hear your experience with it and I might even follow up with a post about how Scrum could be applied to its fullest.

Scrum Values (Family Values)

Without actually knowing it, your probably already living and guiding your own family based on some core values. The great thing about living by values is it is applied regardless of your circumstances.

Scrum has its own values which I have adapted for family life:

CourageFamily members have courage to do the right thing and
work on tough problems
FocusEveryone focuses on committed actions
within a very short time frame (2 weeks) and the goals
of the family members
CommitmentFamily members commit to achieving the goals
of the family members
RespectFamily members respect each other to be capable and
independent people
OpennessThe family members agree to be open about all inner
workings and challenges with life in general

So if you haven’t thought too much about your own family values the above might be a good starting point for you.

Retrospectives (Family Meetings)

A retrospective (retro) is essentially a family meeting, gathering the family members together on an agreed regular basis. The purpose of a retrospective is to:

  • Inspect how the last 2 weeks went with regards to family members, relationships, appointments, and family management tools;
  • Identify and order the major items that went well and potential improvements; and,
  • Create a plan for implementing improvements to the way the family works together.

Running a Retro

The first thing is to organise a regular day and time to meet together, usually every 2 weeks. There are a few approaches to how this can run. To start off I recommend the following:

  1. Get a cardboard or A4 paper, post-it notes and markers
  2. On the cardboard create three columns
    Went Well | To Improve | Action Items
  3. Spend 15 -20 minutes for the entire team to write on the Post-it notes and add then into either the “Went Well” and “To Improve” columns
  4. Spend the next 15 minutes going through all of the Post-it notes and capture actions that you would like to address in the next two weeks.
Example of a Retro Board

An example is the following “To Improve”: “We are always running late in the mornings as Stephanie is having 10 minutes showers”

Discussions within the family might result in many ideas including using the timer on her phone to ensure showers are kept to 4 minutes. (An actual example btw used for my own daughter).

The action to use the timer on her phone is trialed for next two weeks. In the next retro it is discussed and either it remains if it works, adjusted or an alternative idea is suggested.

You might be thinking why use post-it notes, why cant we just talk? In my opinion using post-it notes gives the family something tangible to point to and gives individuals time to think. The outcome should be more constructive discussions and less chaos.

Tips:

  • Having these types of family meetings can bring out some topics that can be contentious especially if you are living by the values mentioned in this post. If you feel this is the case you can start with just the parents and the when you are comfortable, start bringing in the children.
  • Create a physiologically safe room as this will help with getting the most value out of the session
  • Don’t try to fix all of the worlds problems at once. Pick the top one or two actions to try out in the next two weeks. You can always come back to the old board and I’m sure there will be new items to discuss which might even be more important.
  • Decide how often you want to meet. In Scrum it is usually 2 weeks but it can be however often you need it to be as long as its within a month. And you can increase the length as you get into a routine and if there is nothing burning you need to address within the family.
FunRetro

As you get more experience you can even replace the paper board and post-it notes with an online version or App which the kids would be more than happy to use ;-). Something like https://funretro.io/ or https://trello.com/.

One thing to remember with this approach, use parts of the framework that makes sense and what works for your environment and current situation. If it means calling an ad hoc retro (family meeting) and addressing an immediate concern for a short period then this just fine. The important point is, you will be encouraging open and honest discussions and taking action. Typical Scrum is “Difficult to master“, but anything worth having is life takes time, persistency and consistency!

I hope some of the points mentioned here help and would be very interested in hearing your thoughts and own experiences.

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